Buckeyes welcomes Penn State into town as the two battle to keep Playoff hopes alive

Written by Garin Turner
Saturday afternoon’s game between No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 BIG) and No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 BIG) could serve as a College Football Playoff elimination game for both teams. The Buckeyes can’t afford another loss this season while Penn State might be able to afford a loss but neither team will want to have that thought process in this one. Kickoff is 2:30 PM CST on FOX. Ohio State is in the middle of a five-game winning streak as they return home for the first time in three weeks. This game marks the 32nd meeting with the Buckeyes leading the all-time series 17-14.

This game could very well be a defensive battle as both teams rank among the best in FBS. Ohio State has allowed just 9.6 points a game while Penn State has given up 15.4. The Buckeyes are coming off a bye week but the last time they were on the field they had no problems handling Nebraska on the road 52-14. Meanwhile, Penn State is coming off a 42-13 victory at home against the Michigan Wolverines.

This could also turn into a high scoring game just as easily as both teams are balanced on offense. The Buckeyes average 250.6 yards rushing a game and 326.7 yards passing a game. The Nittany Lions are averaging 173.4 yards a game rushing and 289.9 yards a game passing. Both teams are averaging 40 plus points a game.

The key for the Buckeyes in this one is to play four complete quarters. Ohio State is known for turning up the heat in the second half making the needed adjustments at halftime but with the powerful offense that Penn State possesses it could be too little too late by that time.

Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett is having an outstanding year. He’s shown he’s more than a dual-threat QB. So far on the year, Barrett is 138 of 207 attempts for 1,838 yards with 21 touchdowns and just one interception. Barrett is second on the team in rushing yards and attempts with 70 carries for 359 yards and five touchdowns.

J.K. Dobbins has taken a lot of pressure off of Barrett carrying the ball with 100 carries for 775 yards and five touchdowns of his own. Mike Webber and Antonio Williams have also contributed with a combined 78 carries for 414 yards and seven touchdowns.

The receiving corps for the Buckeyes seems like a pick your poison deal as eight different receivers have 10 or more catches and also 100 yards minimum. 10 different receivers have caught a touchdown pass on the season. Parris Campbell and K.J. Hill lead the team with receptions at 28. Campbell has 405 yards and two touchdowns while Hill has 274 yards receiving and three touchdowns.

The Buckeyes have their work cut out for them despite their offensive firepower. The Nittnay Lions have outscored opponents 90-0 in the first quarter. QB Trace McSorley is riding 22 consecutive games with a touchdown pass streak. McSorley is 147 of 220 for 1,879 yards with 14 touchdowns and five interceptions. McSorley only needs five passing touchdowns to reach 50 for his career which would set a new record for Penn State as the current career high is 48. McSorley knows how to make plays with his legs as well. He’s second on the team in carries with 83 for 254 yards and seven touchdowns, both good for second on the team.

The Buckeyes will have to worry about Heisman Trophy hopeful running back Saquon Barkley. Barkley has 117 carries for 757 yards and eight touchdowns. He’s first on the team with receptions at 32 and second in yards with 448 and has three receiving touchdowns also good for second on the team. To top it all off he has a 16-yard touchdown pass as well.

Although Barkley and McSorley get most of the attention, the Nittany Lions have a solid receiving core as well. DaeSean Hamilton, Juwan Johnson, and Mike Gesicki all have 20 plus receptions on the year (28, 27, 24). Between the three they have 1,042 yards and nine touchdowns.

For the Buckeyes, a win here could shoot them past No.5 Wisconsin who plays Illinois, No. 4 TCU who plays No. 25 Iowa State, or No. 3 Georgia who plays Florida depending on how those games go. A loss for the Buckeyes and they would have to win out the rest of the season. They would need Wisconsin to run the table all the way to the BIG 10 Championship game and defeat the Badgers to have any shot at the College Football Playoff.

For Penn State, a win here would likely keep them at number two as it doesn’t seem anybody is jumping Alabama unless they lose. The Nittnay Lions will travel to East Lansing to take on the No. 16 Michigan State Spartans in another touch matchup. If they come away with a win in that game then its Rutgers and Nebraska at home followed by a trip to take on Maryland and then the BIG 10 Championship game.

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