It is a question that hasn’t been asked, or even contemplated, in ages.

Is Ohio State’s offense good enough to beat Penn State?

And though the question is specific to the No. 7 Nittany Lions in this particular week, the team name is a fill-in-the-blank scenario here. It’s been quite a long time since anyone underlined concerns with the offense as the reason the Buckeyes might not win a pending matchup.

But there is little doubt that’s where we find ourselves this week.

The Buckeyes are only 20th nationally in points per game. And it says a great deal about the expectations surrounding that offense that being 20th in the country is a shocking step backward. Ohio State hasn’t trodden in this territory since 2015, when it finished 28th nationally with 35.7 ppg.

Toss Penn State’s defense into the mix, and this week has potential to be Ohio State’s most offensively challenged game since getting blanked by Clemson in the 2016 Fiesta Bowl.

Manny Diaz has Penn State ranked 2nd in the country, allowing 8 points per game. In terms of total defense, the Nittany Lions are No. 1, surrendering just 3.42 yards per play. No other defense is allowing fewer than 4 ypp. (Ironically, the defense ranked 1 spot behind Penn State in both categories is also on the field at Ohio Stadium on Saturday.)

This promises to be some kind of changeup for the Buckeyes, who have scored at least 27 points on Penn State in each of their 6 straight wins in the series.

The questions are many for Ohio State’s offense.


The Buckeyes are beat up right now. By the second half of last week’s 41-7 win at Purdue, 4th-string running back Dallan Hayden was carrying the load because everyone else was out of commission.

TreVeyon Henderson and Miyan Williams didn’t suit up at all. They were soon joined by Chip Trayanum, who left the game with an injury of his own.

The Bucks don’t need all of them back for Penn State, but at least 2 would be nice. Particularly if 1 of them is Henderson, who is by far the most explosive option in Ohio State’s backfield as both a runner and receiver.

“Not going to get into all those guys, but hopefully we will have all those guys back for Saturday,” Ryan Day said at his Tuesday press conference.

“Those guys” also includes wide receiver Emeka Egbuka — the No. 2 receiver on this roster and arguably the No. 2 receiver in the Big Ten. He also did not take the field against Purdue.

Egbuka could be the most important piece of them all.

Penn State cornerback Kalen King, who could fall asleep most weeks because the ball never goes his direction, is the rare defensive back who can go toe-to-toe with Ohio State standout Marvin Harrison Jr.

Having Egbuka on the field with Harrison and tight end Cade Stover can help tilt the table back toward the Buckeyes.

Offensive line

Trouble brews up front.

Getting into the backfield is Penn State’s primary strength this season. The Nittany Lions are No. 2 in the country with 27 sacks and 10th with 51 tackles for loss.

All of that adds up to Penn State having the B1G’s 2nd-best third-down defense, as well. Penn State excels at putting opponents behind the chains.

Meanwhile, struggles in protection and getting a push are arguably the biggest reason Ohio State’s offense isn’t humming in its usual fashion.

The Buckeyes have allowed 10 sacks — not terrible, but only 8th-best in the Big Ten. Ohio State is also allowing 4 TFL per game, which is 5th in the conference. Again, not bad. But still a step back for a team that led the B1G in that department last year.

The Buckeyes are also 8th in the league in yards per carry (4.26). That number dips to 3.47 ypc against Big Ten opponents, though keep in mind that Ohio State was down to RB4 at Purdue.


Kyle McCord hasn’t been as bad as some perceive, because he hasn’t been bad at all.

He just hasn’t been a vintage Ohio State quarterback. But put him in an Iowa uniform and there would already be a McCord Drive leading up to Kinnick Stadium.

McCord has 11 touchdowns against a single interception that he threw in the season opener at Indiana. He’s 3rd in the B1G in completion percentage (64.1%) and trails only Michigan’s JJ McCarthy in yards per attempt (9.7).

And in the biggest moment of the season, McCord proved his mettle with a last-minute drive to lead the Buckeyes to victory at Notre Dame.

But this is the best defense McCord has ever faced, and that makes it the defining test of his career to this point. Win or lose, succeed or struggle, we’re about to learn a lot about how far McCord can take the Buckeyes.