Buckeyes face stout Penn State test
Who: Penn State vs. No. 1 Ohio State
When: Saturday, 8 p.m. ET
Where: Ohio Stadium, Ohio State
Spread: Ohio State -17
Matchup to watch: Joey Bosa vs. Christian Hackenberg
It hasn’t been the highlight-reel junior season we all expected for either of these guys. That could change on Saturday. We’ve all seen Bosa’s viral push sack of Hackenberg last year, which told you all you needed to know about the OSU defensive end and Penn State’s pass protection. The Lions have improved on that front, but they still don’t have a one-on-one matchup capable of keeping Bosa from Hackenberg. Bosa already expressed his excitement to finally face a pocket passer. Hackenberg is exactly that, despite his two rushing touchdowns last week. You likely won’t see many five-step drops or empty-backfield sets and Bosa is the reason why.
Thing I’m excited to see: Black-out Bucks
In case you haven’t somehow heard, the Buckeyes will be trying out some black Nike alternates on Saturday night. It will definitely be one of those games in which you won’t feel like the home team is the home team. Seeing Ohio State in anything but the home scarlets will be odd for Buckeye purists. It’ll be fun to follow the commentary on this one. If the Buckeyes fall behind, expect the uniform chatter to be negative. For what it’s worth, Ohio State was wearing an alternate look when it fell to Virginia Tech last year. Not that uniforms have any impact on play, but the future of the all-blacks will probably be based on performance.
Number to Remember: 158.7
That’s how many passing yards Penn State is allowing per game, which is good for 13th in the country. The Buckeyes haven’t faced a quality pass defense since the opener against Virginia Tech. Last week, Cardale Jones settled in and got Mike Thomas, Braxton Miller and Jalin Marshall involved against Maryland. But he wasn’t facing heat from pass-rushers like he will against Carl Nassib and Anthony Zettel. Nobody in the country has been better getting to the quarterback than Nassib and the Lions. There will likely be times when Jones can’t step into a deep ball and his mechanics will get thrown off. It wouldn’t be surprising to see downfield shots limited and OSU go to the underneath routes to move the chains on third-and-longs. But if Ezekiel Elliott can get rolling, the third-and-longs will be few and far between.
Prediction: Ohio State 28, Penn State 14
I don’t think we see the Buckeye offense look nearly as comfortable as it did last week. I don’t think the Buckeyes will string a bunch of long touchdown drives together, either, which means J.T. Barrett’s work would be limited. The Penn State defense is too stout to get dominated at the line of scrimmage. This could have a similar feel to the Indiana game early. Elliott is contained in the first half but fuels the Buckeyes with some long touchdown runs late to give them some breathing room. The Lions hang around but ultimately can’t draw up enough offense — with or without Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley — to knock off their first top-five opponent in the 21st century.