Game Matchup: Ohio State Vs. Penn State

Dark Night is upon us and the Buckeyes are set to take on Penn State. Get facts, figures, stats, predictions and more in our weekly game matchup piece.

Penn State at No. 1 Ohio State

Matchup Preview | Oct. 17, Memorial Stadium, 3:30 p.m.
Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0)
Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0)

Five Fast Facts About Penn State
1. Penn State has scored first in all six games this season, and seven straight games dating back to last season’s Pinstripe Bowl against Boston College.

2. Penn State has held opponents to less than 325 yards of total offense for 13 consecutive regular season games, which is the longest streak in the nation. Additionally, the Nittany Lions have held their last five opponents under 300 yards of total offense.

3. Penn State has four wins all-time against teams ranked No. 1, the last coming in 1990 with a win against Notre Dame. The Nittany Lions are 0-3 all-time vs. the top-ranked Buckeyes, losing to No. 1 OSU in 1998, 2006 and ’07.

4. True freshmen have accounted for more than 35 percent of Penn State’s 17 offensive touchdowns this season, as Saquon Barkley has rushed for three and caught one, while wide receiver Brandon Polk has one of each. 22 freshmen have played for the team this year (five true, 17 redshirt).

5. Penn State has lost 38 man games to injury this season, including 5.5 for starting linebacker Nyeem Wartman-White and 5 to tight end Adam Breneman. In all, 34 difference players have started at the 22 spots on offense and defense this year for the Nittany Lions.

Game Breakdown
Penn State boasts a physical defense that has been difficult to run against so far this season. Opponents are averaging just 117.0 yards per game and 3.1 per rush, and that’s even after facing the run-based offense that Army brought to the table. It was thought the loss of star linebacker Wartman-White would hurt the Nittany Lions defense but the team is still among the best in the nation at getting in opposing backfields with 53 tackles for loss in six games. It should be a strength against strength matchup with Ezekiel Elliott rushing for 100 yards in 11 consecutive games, but the Buckeyes’ solid but not great day on the ground vs. Maryland is slightly worrying. EDGE: EVEN

Nothing on offense has really come easy for the Nittany Lions this year, and it hasn’t helped that what looked like a reliable one-two punch in running backs Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley has been short-circuited by injuries. Lynch has proved to be a good back the past couple of seasons while Barkley is a freshman who has taken State College by storm, averaging 8.9 yards per carry, but the two have each missed the past two games with injuries. If they aren’t at 100 percent it will be difficult for the Nittany Lions to run on an Ohio State team that is allowing just 3.5 yards per carry, and quarterback Christian Hackenberg isn’t fleet afoot. EDGE: OHIO STATE

Penn State hasn’t exactly faced a bevy of offenses that can throw the ball so far this season, and a week ago at Indiana the Hoosiers had to go down to their third-string QB because of injuries. That’s one reason the team is allowing 158.7 passing yards per game and has given up just three passing scores. It also helps that the Nittany Lions are second in the nation in sacks with 25 so far, including 10 for senior end Carl Nassib, a former walk-on. Ohio State has had some trouble protecting the quarterback at times this year, so that will bear watching. This will be the first big test for the Nittany Lions in this realm with the way Cardale Jones has thrown the ball the last three weeks. EDGE: EVEN

This has been one of the biggest mysteries in college football the past few seasons – how Penn State has turned a five-star quarterback in Hackenberg into someone who is completing just 53.6 percent of his passes for 181.0 yards per game. The downfield passing game has been hard to find, largely because of an offensive line that can’t protect long enough for the Nittany Lions to throw the ball down the field and famously ceded 10 sacks in the opener vs. Temple. The Nittany Lions have some dangerous targets but have had to turn to a short, timing passing game given the struggles of the offensive line. EDGE: OHIO STATE

The kickers have been hit-and-miss for the Nittany Lions so far. Penn State has alternated two punters and neither has done well, with the team sitting 83rd in the nation in net punting. Kicker Joey Julius has been solid, though, in his first year, as the 259-pounder has made 9 of 11 kicks, though he missed two PATs vs. Indiana. The Nittany Lions have also been solid in the return game. Meanwhile, Ohio State has been excellent in coverage and also has a distinct advantage in the punting game. EDGE: OHIO STATE

The last two games in the series have been very different. Ohio State drubbed Penn State under the lights in Ohio Stadium in 2013 and the Nittany Lions nearly returned the favor last year, taking an overtime lead before J.T. Barrett led a comeback capped by Joey Bosa’s walkoff sack. It seems likely the Buckeyes will have that game in mind when it faces off against the Nittany Lions, and a home crowd and black jerseys should just add to the hype. EDGE: OHIO STATE

Ohio State finally got things going efficiently on offense in the win vs. Maryland, though there are still some places the Buckeyes can be better. OSU seems to be moving the right direction, though, with 500 yards in each of the past three games, and the Buckeyes seem to enjoy playing conference rivals at home under the lights. With all that in mind, this one is trending toward a big Buckeye victory, so that’s our pick. Penn State is a solid team with a physical defense, but the Silver Bullets – in their black helmets – will flash and OSU will move to 7-0. OHIO STATE 34-16

The staff pick is an average of predictions by Ryan Ginn, James Grega, Tim Moody, Jeff Svoboda and Blake Williams

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