Penn State’s Prey 2019: Ohio State Buckeyes

It’s quite easy to sum up the past two games against the Ohio State Buckeyes: heartbreak. Penn State has been on the short end of two epic football games that have been separated by a mere two points. However, the Buckeyes are now under a new
leader, as head coach Ryan Day takes over the reigns. The Buckeyes are far from a sinking program, but Day’s job still could be tough; replacing a coach as successful as Urban Meyer is never easy. Ohio State is one of the ten or so programs that will always sell themselves. But the question isn’t whether or not Day will be able to bring in blue chip recruits. It’s whether or not he will be able to make the big time coaching decisions that Meyer seemed to get right more times than not–although he may have wanted to call a timeout here.

As great and historic as that play was, Penn State can only ride that wave for so long. It will be three years since that upset and head coach James Franklin needs to show he can beat these newly led Buckeyes (13-1, 8-1 BIG). Unlike previous seasons, this November 23rd matchup is super late into the season. In fact, this might be the latest it has been played since November 19th, 2011–Penn State won that game in Columbus.

After they play Penn State, Ohio State will then have to go on the road to play Michigan. I’m not saying they are gonna overlook this game, but I’m not saying they will be entirely focused either.

As I breakdown the Ohio State Buckeyes for 2019, just remember that this team is constantly bringing in top of the line talent that can make up for any inexperience it may have. From a talent perspective, there is not a tougher team in the Big Ten.

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Offense (42.4 PPG, Returning Starters: 4)

Another year and another new quarterback. Justin Fields, the true sophomore, was announced the starting quarterback on Monday. If the name sounds familiar to you it’s because once upon a time he was committed to Penn State. In fact, Penn State was one of the first teams to offer him a scholarship. He later flipped his commitment to Georgia. During his freshman season he was unable to crack the starting lineup and fled to Ohio State this offseason. Being a former five-star prospect, he obviously has all the tools to be a great college player. However, during the brief moments he did play last year, he seemed a little frantic. It will be interesting to see how far he’s progressed by the time these two teams see each other. I do expect this offense to showcase more QB runs than last year.

What better way to break in a new QB than with an experienced running back in J.K. Dobbins (1,013 yards, 10 TDs). However, Dobbins’ sidekicks, Mike Weber and Master Teague have departed, leaving Demario McCall as the presumed backup.

Thankfully, receivers Paris Campbell and Terry McLaurin are also gone. K.J. Hill (141 catches, 1,667 yards, 10 TDs) will now take over the starting gig. I also really like Austin Mack (52 catches, 689 yards, 3 TDs) and Chris Olave (12 catches, 197 yards, 3 TDs). Ohio State will always have threats on the edges. The Lions will have to tackle these athletes better down the stretch if they want to close out games.

Unfortunately for Justin Fields, and fortunately for Penn State, Ohio State will be replacing three offensive linemen. Thayer Munford is the only true returning starter at left tackle. Brandon Bowen also started 6 games in his career and is fighting for a position though he is coming back from a broken leg. Buckeyes also bring in Jonah Jackson from Rutgers.

Defense (25.5 PPG, Returning Starters: 9)

The Ohio State defense has to improve from a year ago if the Buckeyes want any chance of winning the Big Ten. Former Penn State defensive line coach, Larry Johnson Sr.’s defensive line allowed opposing teams to run all over them. Now, they will have to replace a first round pick in Nick Bosa.

All eyes will be on Chase Young to become the solution to the Buckeyes’ defensive woes. Chase Young was also the one who stopped Miles Sanders in his tracks to effectively end the game last year. Tyreke Smith and Jonathon Cooper will also need to step up on the defensive line. Another person to keep an eye on is Zach Harrison, who is a five-star defensive end that chose OSU over PSU and UM.

Behind the defensive line stands the unsure linebacking corps. One certainty though is Malik Harrison (130 tackles, 12.5 TFLs, 1 INT). Harrison will be looked upon to anchor this group that really hasn’t had consistency for a couple years. Brendon White (46 tackles, 4 TFLs, 1 INT) could move from the secondary to the outside linebacker position.

The secondary is where the Buckeyes plan to hang their hat on. Safety Jordan Fuller (81 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1 INT last season) is returning for his senior season. Josh Proctor could start at the other safety spot if White does move to more of a linebacker role. Jeffery Okudah, a prized recruit, had 32 tackles and 8 pass breakups last year and will start at cornerback. Shaun Wade and Damon Arnette will compete for the other spot. If you want my two-cents, I think Damon Arnette is trash and only seems decent because he pass interferes. Apparently, I am not the only one, this is from 247Sports: “Pass interference and holding penalties at the wrong times have haunted the corner throughout his career.”

Cory’s Take

I honestly have no idea who is going to win this game. I really think it’s going to come down to which team’s quarterback plays better. Since I don’t know how much Penn State’s receivers are going to improve I can’t take Penn State as of now especially on the road. I will say that I think Ohio State ends up being behind both Michigan and Michigan State in the Big Ten East because of their offensive line inconsistencies and question marks stopping the run. I am just not sure where Penn State lies in that mix. It will be interesting to see if this game ends up being at noon on FOX and if it does I think that helps the Lions tremendously. I really am looking forward to this game and if Franklin can pull this presumed upset off, it will catapult Penn State’s confidence for the ensuing seasons.

Too-Early Prediction

Penn State: 23

Ohio State: 27


(Follow me on Twitter @Cory_Lestochi)

This is the eleventh installment of Penn State’s Prey 2019. If you have missed any of the pieces you can find them here: Idaho, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, MarylandPurdueIowa, and MichiganMichigan State, Minnesota, and Indiana.

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