Penn State-Ohio State: Keys to victory, players to watch and a prediction
Unbeaten Penn State hosts No. 4 Ohio State on Saturday in the first game between top-10 teams at Beaver Stadium since 1999.
The winner takes an edge in not only the Big Ten East but also for the conference’s early playoff contender.
KEYS TO VICTORY
1. Establish, and maintain, the run game. The offensive line has to hit peak nastiness to clear space for McSorley and Miles Sanders. Converting third downs and extending drives should top Penn State’s to-do list.
2. Somehow pressure Haskins. Ohio State’s line is large (three starters at 6-7 or taller) and athletic, a combination Penn State’s front-four won’t crack. That means blitzing, a risky bet since Haskins throws quickly and accurately. Linemen Shareef Miller and Kevin Givens need to be visible.
3. Stop the drops. Penn State has 10 dropped passes this season, too many for receivers coach David Corley. That has contributed to McSorley’s 53.8 completion percentage and stalled offensive momentum. Veteran receivers Juwan Johnson and DeAndre Thompkins have to make tough catches.
1. Dobbins and Weber. Like Penn State, the Buckeyes want to produce a first-down, ball-control offense. Backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber (who is healthy) have combined for 622 yards.
2. Slant the linebackers. The Buckeyes’ receivers should compile chunk yards, and possibly big plays, by running routes at Penn State’s linebackers. Maybe the game’s biggest mismatch.
3. Mitigate Penn State’s big plays. Ohio State’s defense is susceptible to speed, as TCU proved. Plus, the starting linebackers made no tackles vs. Tulane. Buckeyes’ back seven has to be better.
FIVE THINGS YOU SHOULD KNOW
1. Ohio State (nine) and Penn State (eight) have the nation’s second- and third-longest win streaks behind Central Florida (16).
2. Penn State is 5-5 in full-stadium ‘Whiteout’ games, 1-2 against Ohio State.
3. According to the Big Ten stats crew, this is the first Big Ten game between the nation’s top two scoring offenses since Wisconsin beat Northwestern in 1962.
4. Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins is the first Big Ten quarterback to throw five touchdown passes twice in his first four games.
5. Penn State is playing its 29th game in which both teams are ranked in the top 10. It has a 13-15 record in those games.
Ohio State’s marginally better defense and senior kicker give it the slimmest of edges. Despite a career game, Trace McSorley goes to 16-1 at home.
OHIO STATE 38, PENN STATE 35