WEEK 11: vs. 9-1(6-1) PENN STATE
THE SERIES This will be the 19th meeting between the two storied football programs. The Buckeyes lead the series 12-6. Ohio State has won three straight and five of the last six matchups over the Nittany Lions. It will be the third consecutive year Ohio State and Penn State meet as top-10 ranked opponents. Ohio State rallied for a 27-26 win over PSU last year in State College. OSU and PSU both rank among the top-10 all-time in wins. Ohio State ranks second with 921 victories and Penn State is eighth with 896.
REINFORCEMENTS COMING In time for what is expected to be Ohio State’s biggest challenge to date, the Buckeyes should get back several players that sat out last week against Rutgers. Defensive end Chase Young, who leads the country in sacks, will return after sitting out the last two games because of an NCAA suspension. Cornerback Damon Arnette sat out the Rutgers game resting his broken hand but is expected to play Saturday. Linebacker Baron Browning and wide receiver Austin Mack are also likely to return from injuries.
EAST TITLE COULD BE DECIDED Ohio State can clinch the Big 10 East Division title and a spot in the conference championship game with a win Saturday. A Penn State win would create a first-place tie between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions atop the East Division.
ANOTHER CINCY QB Penn State first-year starting quarterback Sean Clifford will be the second QB Ohio State has played this season who hails from Cincinnati. Clifford was a prep standout at St. Xavier High School. The Buckeyes also saw a Cincinnati native at quarterback against Indiana. The Hoosiers’ Peyton Ramsey hails from Elder High School. The Buckeyes did not offer a scholarship to either Clifford or Ramsey.
WHAT COULD HAVE BEEN Penn State will be tasked with containing Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields on Saturday. At one time, the Nittany Lions thought Fields would be playing on their side. Fields was committed to Penn State during his junior year of high school before changing his mind and signing with Georgia. Fields has been spectacular in his first season with the Buckeyes after transferring from Georgia. He has now thrown 31 touchdown passes and just one interception.
IN THE SPOTLIGHT Saturday’s showdown will not be lacking in television coverage. Three national college football shows will air from Columbus. ESPN’s popular GameDay preview show will be in Columbus for the 19th time on Saturday. FOX Sports, which is televising the game, will have its Big Noon Kickoff crew on hand and the Big Ten Network will also broadcast its BTN Tailgate program from the OSU campus.
RECRUITING TRAIL The Buckeyes have taken notice of Marysville standout sophomore linebacker Gabe Powers, offering Powers a scholarship last week. Powers announced the news on Twitter. The 6-4, 220-pounder also has offers from Florida State, Michigan and Colorado. “I am beyond blessed,” Powers told the Lettermen Row website. “I wasn’t expecting it. I am still feeling very blessed to receive these great offers at such an early age.”
More Buckeye Insider
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. FAU RUSH DEFENSE
Ohio State had an up-and-down rushing attack last season as the offense was geared more to the passing game behind first-round NFL draft pick Dwayne Haskins. The Buckeyes still averaged a respectable 171 rushing yards per game. Ohio State hopes to improve that number this fall, as talented junior tailback J.K. Dobbins is poised for a big year. In addition, new quarterback Justin Fields is considered much more of a running threat than Haskins was, adding an added dimension to the Buckeyes’ run game. Florida Atlantic struggled against the run a year ago, ranking 89th nationally in rushing defense at 189 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. FAU PASS DEFENSE
The Buckeyes featured one of the best passing offenses in the country last season, but they lost Haskins and a couple of their top receivers. There is a lot of hype surrounding Georgia transfer Justin Fields, who was the number-one ranked quarterback in the country coming out of high school two years ago. But Fields looked a little shaky in the spring game. He should be helped by a solid group of wide receivers, led by K.J. Hill, Ben Victor and Austin Mack. Florida Atlantic allowed 238 passing yards per game in 2018, which ranked only 79th in the country. ADVANTAGE: OSU
FAU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE
The Owls ranked 14th nationally in total offense last year, which was a result of a running game that produced 242 yards per game. However, FAU lost standout running back Devin Singletary to the NFL. Singletary rushed for 4,289 yards over the last three seasons. OSU head coach Ryan Day did a major overhaul to his defensive staff, trying to improve a defense that alarmingly inconsistent last season. The Buckeyes were 54th in the country against the run a year ago, but with nine starters returning and former Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison now helping run the defense, they should be more stout against the run in 2019. ADVANTAGE: OSU
FAU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE
While head coach Lane Kiffin is thought off as an aggressive offensive play caller, the Owls were a pedestrian passing team last year. They ranked 63rd in the nation in passing yards per game. FAU is also breaking in a new quarterback this season. Although Ohio State’s defense had a forgettable season a year ago, the secondary made solid improvement and should be a strength this season with three starters returning. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. UC RUSH DEFENSE The Buckeyes rushed for 237 yards on 48 carries against Florida Atlantic, a good showing for a rebuilt offensive line. However, the challenge will be much more difficult against a stout UC rush defense. The Bearcats allowed just 62 yards on 36 carries in their win over UCLA. Last season, the Bearcats ranked 13th nationally against the run, surrendering only 113 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: UC OSU PASS
OFFENSE VS. UC PASS DEFENSE After jumping out to a 28-0 lead in the first quarter last week, Ryan Day appeared to go more conservative with his play calling over the final three quarters. He will have to open it back up against a Bearcats defense that will look to load up against the run. Justin Fields will have opportunities to make plays through the air. Although UC’s defense was impressive against UCLA, it did give up a 75-yard passing touchdown. ADVANTAGE: OSU
UC RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE While it did not come against a top flight opponent, Ohio State’s defense was outstanding against the run in the opener vs. FAU. The Buckeyes allowed just 22 rushing yards on 33 carries. The Bearcats have a good running back in Michael Warren, but averaged a mediocre 3.6 yards per carry against UCLA last week and will face a stronger defense in the Buckeyes. ADVANTAGE: OSU
UC PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE The Bearcats’ Desmond Ridder looks like the real deal. He was the AAC rookie of the year last season and was impressive against UCLA in this year’s opener. He is a quarterback that can make plays with his feet and his arm, and will test an Ohio State defense that lacked discipline a year ago. While the Buckeyes’ pass defense looked improved vs. FAU, the Owls found openings in the OSU secondary in the second half. ADVANTAGE: UC
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. IU RUSH DEFENSE Indiana has a veteran defense and its strength in the early going has been stopping the run. The Hoosiers gave up just 100 rushing yards on 40 carries against Ball State and allowed 52 yards on 31 carries vs. Eastern Illinois last week. However, Indian Lake will face a much bigger test in Ohio State and J.K. Dobbins. The Buckeyes are coming off a 270-yard rushing effort against Cincinnati in which Dobbins ripped off a 60-yard touchdown runs.
ADVANTAGE: OSU OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. IU PASS DEFENSE Justin Fields was a very efficient 20-of-25 for 224 yards and two touchdowns in Ohio State’s win over the Bearcats. He looked comfortable in the pocket against a Cincinnati team that repeatedly sent blitzes at him. Fields will look to make another step in his progression against an IU defense that gave up 298 passing yards to Ball State. ADVANTAGE: OSU
IU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE Indiana’s offense has leaned more on its passing game than running attack so far this season. The Hoosiers were held to 114 rushing yards on 34 carries against Eastern Illinois and didn’t do much better against Ball State with 148 yards on 33 rushing attempts. Ohio State’s rush defense has been stellar in its first two games. In wins over Florida Atlantic and Cincinnati, the Buckeyes have allowed a combined 129 rushing yards on 67 carries (1.9 average). ADVANTAGE: OSU
INDIANA PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE Cincinnati native Peyton Ramsey was impressive against Ohio State last season, throwing for 322 yards and three touchdowns. But Ramsey lost his starting job to redshirt Michael Penix, a dual-threat quarterback that has been flashy in the first two games. Penix has passed for 523 yards and three touchdowns. If he struggles, IU can always turn back to Ramsey, who came off the bench in last week’s blowout of Eastern Illinois to go to 13-14 for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Ohio State’s pass defense has shown improvement, but will be challenged by a veteran group of IU receivers and tight ends. ADVANTAGE: IU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. MIAMI RUSH DEFENSE The Buckeyes are coming off a 314-yard rushing outing against Indiana, the highest output on the ground since recording 375 yards against Oregon State in the first game of the 2018 season. At 271 rushing yards per game, Ohio State ranks 16th nationally and second in the Big 10. Through three games, the RedHawks have not been especially good against the run. Miami ranks 88th in the country in rushing yards allowed. They gave up 234 vs. Cincinnati last week and 213 against Iowa in the season opener. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. MIAMI PASS DEFENSE The Buckeyes rank just 76th in passing offense at 228 yards per game, but they have been efficient behind transfer quarterback Justin Fields. In his first three games as a college starter, Fields is completing 70 percent of his passes (52-of-74) for 657 yards and nine touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception. The Redhawks are allowing 215 yards per game through the air, which ranks 66th nationally. Miami gave up 252 passing yards to Iowa and 208 to Tennessee Tech. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MIAMI RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE While the competition has not been the strongest, Ohio State’s rush defense has been stellar so far in 2019. The Buckeyes have allowed only 171 rushing yards in three games. That is the lowest total the Buckeyes have given up in the first three games since the 2003 team held its first three opponents to 56 yards. The Silver Bullets will look to continue to stuff the run against a Miami team that is averaging a lackluster 104 rushing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MIAMI PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE Miami true freshman Brett Gabbert will get a big test facing an improved Ohio State pass defense in Ohio Stadium. The RedHawks rank 115th nationally in passing offense with 162.7 yards per game. With the Buckeyes having been so stingy against the run, opponents have been forced to go to the air. Ohio State has held up well, allowing only 5.9 yards per completion and 195.7 passing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. NEBRASKA RUSH DEFENSE Ohio State ranks 13th nationally in rushing at 262 yards per game. Nebraska has been solid against the run, allowing 116.8 yards per game to rank 41st in rushing defense. However, they have yet to face a strong rushing team. Illinois rushed for 221 yards against the Cornhuskers last week. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. NEBRASKA PASS DEFENSE Although Nebraska’s defense as a whole has shown some improvement over a porous unit it had last year, the Cornhuskers have not been very good defending the pass so far this season. Nebraska is 81st nationally in passing yards allowed at 240 yards per game. Nebraska allowed 375 passing yards to Colorado and 276 against Northern Illinois. Ohio State is passing for 264 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NEBRASKA RUSH OFFENSE VS. OHIO STATE RUSH DEFENSE Ohio State is expected to get its toughest defensive test of the season against the Cornhuskers. Through four games, the Buckeyes have been stellar against the run. Ohio State is seventh in the country in rush defense, giving up just 60.3 rushing yards per game. Nebraska will give Ohio State an added rushing challenge with quarterback Adrian Martinez, but the rest of the Cornhuskers’ running backs have been inconsistent. Nebraska is averaging 219.5 rushing yards per game, which is good for 34th best in the country. But it was limited to 98 yards on 44 attempts (2.2 yards per rush) against South Alabama. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NEBRASKA PASS OFFENSE VS. OHIO STATE PASS DEFENSE Sophomore standout Adrian Martinez has made Nebraska into one of the top passing attacks in the Big 10. The Cornhuskers are averaging 270 passing yards per game. Martinez has thrown for 1,052 yards and seven touchdowns. He threw for 327 yards in last week’s win over Illinois. Martinez has several talented targets including J.D. Spielman, who has enjoyed success in the past against the Buckeyes. Ohio State has been much improved against the pass this season, but has not faced a passing game as good as the one it will see Saturday night in Lincoln. ADVANTAGE: NEBRASKA
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. MSU RUSH DEFENSE Ohio State rolled up 368 rushing yards against Nebraska and currently ranks seventh nationally in rushing offense at 281.6 yards per game. The Buckeyes will face their biggest test on the ground so far this season in the Spartans, who are giving up only 55.8 rushing yards per game. Only three teams are allowing fewer rushing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: MSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. MSU PASS DEFENSE Justin Fields and the Ohio State passing attack has been getting better by the week. The Buckeyes are averaging 254 passing yards per game and Fields has thrown for 16 touchdowns in five games. Ohio State will look to continue to make plays through the air against a Michigan State defense that gave up 286 passing yards to Indiana last Saturday. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE Aside from a 251-yard output against Western Michigan in the second game of the season, the Spartans have not been overly effective on the ground. MSU ranks 83rd nationally in rushing offense with an average of 144.6 yards per game. Ohio State’s defense has been stout against the run, giving up only 85 rushing yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MSU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE With a healthy Brian Lewerke, Michigan State’s passing game has been improved this season. The Spartans are a respectable 44th nationally in passing offense at 269 yards per game. However, they have yet to face a defense like Ohio State’s, which is permitting only 138.8 passing yards per contest. Nebraska mustered only 47 yards through the air on 8-of-17 passing against the Buckeyes last week. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. NW RUSH DEFENSE The Buckeyes feature the third-best rushing attack in the country and the best in the Big 10 with an average of 288.5 yards per game on the ground. The Wildcats have been solid against the run, giving up 142.8 yards per game. They allowed just 130 rushing yards to a Jonathan Taylor-led Wisconsin offense. However, Justin Fields will give OSU an added advantage will his ability to make plays with his legs. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. NW PASS DEFENSE Northwestern’s pass defense has been very sound over the first half of the season. The Wildcats have limited their opponents to 176 passing yards per game, which is good for 14th nationally. Ohio State comes in with the 63rd-best passing offense at 246 yards per contest. ADVANTAGE: NW
NW RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE Northwestern has not been able to get its ground game on track. Isaiah Bowser, who came into the season with big expectations, has been held back by injuries. The Wildcats are 80th nationally in rushing offense at 152.4 yards per game. Ohio State has been one of the best defenses in the country against the run, limiting the opponents to 82 yards per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
NW PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE On paper, this is a matchup of a major weakness for Northwestern against the strength of Ohio State’s defense. The Wildcats have tried three quarterbacks so far this season and none of them have found success through the air. Northwestern is 123rd nationally in passing offense at 140 yards per game, while the Buckeyes are only giving up 152 passing yards per contest. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. UW RUSH DEFENSE The Badgers have been very stout defensively and their specialty has been stopping the run. Wisconsin is first nationally against the run, giving up only 58.4 rushing yards per game. The Buckeyes are the third-best rushing team in the nation with an average of 287 yards per game. Illinois was able to find some running lanes in the Wisconsin defense by spreading the Badgers out. Ohio State will attempt to do the same and look for Justin Fields to get some more designed runs. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. UW PASS DEFENSE This will be the biggest challenge Justin Fields and the Ohio State passing attack have faced this season. The Badgers are allowing only 135.4 yards per game through the air and will look to prevent Fields from getting comfortable. The Buckeyes’ offensive line will have its hands full trying to keep Chris Orr (8 sacks) and Zack Baun (6 1/2 sacks) away from Fields. ADVANTAGE: UW
UW RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE It’s hard to recall a time when Wisconsin didn’t have a strong running attack. The Badgers’ bread and butter this season has again been their ability to pound teams on the ground. Wisconsin is averaging 235.4 rushing yards per game, while star junior tailback Jonathan Taylor ranks third nationally in rushing with 957 yards. The Buckeyes have been good defending the run, but won’t be able to completely shut down Taylor and the Badgers. ADVANTAGE: UW
UW PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE Ohio State’s pass defense has shown huge improvement from last season. The Buckeyes are second in the country in passing yards allowed at 136.3 per game. While Jack Coan has been solid in his first full season as the Badgers’ starting quarterback, he has yet to face a secondary with the talent the Buckeyes have. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND RUSH DEFENSE Ohio State continues to be one of the top rushing offenses in the country. The Buckeyes currently rank fourth in the nation in rushing with 284.3 yards per game. Maryland has been solid against the run, ranking 57th in the country while giving up 151 yards per contest. However, the Terrapins will have their hands full against J.K. Dobbins and the OSU rushing attack. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. MARYLAND PASS DEFENSE Justin Fields and his cast of talented receivers will look to exploit a Maryland pass defense that has struggled this season. The Terrapins are giving up 262 passing yards per game, which ranks 111th nationally. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MARYLAND RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE The Terrapins gouged Ohio State on the ground last season, with Anthony McFarland going for 298 yards himself, but it figures to be much more difficult for Maryland to run the ball against the Buckeyes on Saturday. Maryland is 50th in the country in rushing offense (184 yards per game) while Ohio State ranks ninth in rushing defense. The Buckeyes are allowing only 92 rushing yards per contest. ADVANTAGE: OSU
MARYLAND PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE Maryland has been banged up at the quarterback position. Virginia Tech transfer Josh Jackson returned from an injury last week against Michigan, but went just 9-of-20 passing for 97 yards with an interception in a 38-7 loss. This week, Jackson will face an OSU defense that sits first in the country in passing yards allowed at 132.8. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS RUSH DEFENSE The Buckeyes are coming off a 383-yard rushing day in the win over Maryland. Ohio State now sits third nationally in rushing at 295 yards per game. On the other side, Rutgers has been one of the worst rushing defenses in the country. The Scarlet Knights are allowing 198.7 rushing yards per game. Only 23 teams are allowing more. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. RUTGERS PASS DEFENSE Justin Fields and his receivers will look to continue to fine tune their attack against a Rutgers defense that has given up a lot of big plays through the air. The Scarlet Knights are 76th in the nation in passing yards allowed at 232.6 per game. ADVANTAGE: OSU
RUTGERS RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE Rutgers took a big hit offensively when running back Raheem Blackshear shut his season down four games in this fall to take a red shirt. The Scarlet Knights are 99th nationally in rushing at 136.4 yards per game. They face an OSU defense giving up only 88 rushing yards per contest. ADVANTAGE: OSU
RUTGERS PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE The Scarlet Knights have been unable to build any momentum with their passing game. They are on their second quarterback of the season in Johnny Langan after Artur Sitkowski decided to forego the rest of the season to get a red shirt. Langan has struggled as the Scarlet Knights rank 121st in passing offense at 144 yards per game. Ohio State leads the nation in passing yards allowed. The Buckeyes are allowing only 126.6 passing yards per contest. ADVANTAGE: OSU
OSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE RUSH DEFENSE Penn State will be the top rushing defense the Buckeyes have faced this season as the Nittany Lions rank first in the Big 10 and fourth nationally in fewest rushing yards allowed at 75.9. Ohio State is averaging 287 rushing yards per game, which is the fourth-best average in the country. While the Buckeyes won’t completely forget about running the ball, they will likely spend more effort trying to exploit Penn State’s struggling pass defense. ADVANTAGE: PENN STATE
OSU PASS OFFENSE VS. PENN STATE PASS DEFENSE As mentioned above, the Nittany Lions have not been great defending the pass. Penn State is 84th in the nation in passing yards allowed at 240.3. Indiana threw for 371 yards against PSU last week and Minnesota put up 339 passing yards on the Nittany Lions two weeks ago. OSU quarterback Justin Fields is coming off a 305-yard outing in just over a half of action vs. Rutgers. Fields has now thrown 31 touchdown passes with just one interception. ADVANTAGE: OSU
PSU RUSH OFFENSE VS. OSU RUSH DEFENSE The Nittany Lions have a solid stable of running backs led by Journey Brown (521 rushing yards) and Noah Cain (350 rushing yards). Quarterback Sean Clifford is also a running threat with 374 yards and five touchdowns. Yet the Nittany Lions are a pedestrian 53rd nationally in rushing with 173 yards per game. Ohio State counters with the sixth-best rushing defense in the country (90 yards allowed per game). ADVANTAGE: OSU
PSU PASS OFFENSE VS. OSU PASS DEFENSE Sean Clifford has been solid in his first season as the Nittany Lions starting quarterback. Clifford has combined with talented wide receiver KJ Hamler and tight end Pat Freiermuth to average a respectable 253 passing yards per game. However, Clifford will face an OSU defense that ranks first in the country in passing yards allowed at 126 per game. In addition, Hamler’s availability for Saturday is in question after he left last week’s game with an injury. ADVANTAGE: OSU