Buckeyes (6-0) vs. Nittany Lions (6-0): Match-Up Preview 10/21 12:00 PM EST.

October 19, 2023

Andy Billman

Gameday Preview Ohio State Buckeyes vs. Penn State Nittany Lions

Buckeyes Prepare for Game 7 of Season Against Penn State on Saturday: 

1 – McCord Finding Harrison Jr.

Buckeyes QB Kyle McCord has done a great job of getting the best wide receiver in college football WR Marvin Harrison Jr., involved early and making a significant impact.  Penn State is the first team with cornerbacks that can match up with Harrison, so McCord getting him involved early is critical as he is the most explosive player on the field.

2 – Penn State’s D 

Much focus has been put into the talented Penn State defense, which has playmakers on all three levels: defensive line, linebackers, and secondary.  Harrison will help, but the Buckeyes will need the running game to get going to keep the Nittany Lions honest.  Hopefully, RB TreVeyon Henderson will be ready to go as the Buckeyes will need him on Saturday—still no word on if Henderson will be playing.

3 – Lack of Big Plays

This has been a theme of the past for the Buckeye’s defense as they have limited the big plays on defense to practically none.  Ohio State has not given up more than 17 points in a game.

The Nittany Lions have had issues with big plays as well, as in a lack of big plays.  According to the Athletic, Penn State currently ranks 129th in the FBS in plays from the line of scrimmage longer than 20 yards.  They move down the field with long drives and eating up the clock.  If Ohio State can get off the field on third down, they should be in great shape in this game.


This is, well, a big game.  Penn State is not as battled tested with Ohio State playing at Notre Dame earlier in the season.  The difference to me in this game is Harrison. I don’t see a player like that on the Nittany Lion roster, and at some point, he should break loose.  The Buckeyes playing the Irish earlier in the season will help in this game.  

Final Score Prediction: Ohio State 17 Penn State 3

Ohio State Buckeyes Notes

Excluding their narrow three-point victory against the then-9th-ranked Notre Dame, the Buckeyes have breezed through the first half of their season, boasting an average margin of victory of 26.3 points. Their offense ranks third in the Big Ten, averaging 36 points per game, and they lead the conference with an average of 443 total yards per game. Notably, their passing game is a standout, with 308 yards per game, ranking 15th nationally. Marvin Harrison Jr. had a stellar performance against Purdue, securing six receptions for 105 yards and a touchdown. The junior receiver leads the Big Ten with an impressive 604 receiving yards and a remarkable 19.5 yards per catch.

Similar to Penn State, Ohio State excels on both sides of the ball, with their defense allowing a mere 9.7 points per game, ranking third in the Big Ten and the nation. Last weekend marked the third occasion this season that they held their opponent to a touchdown or less, limiting Purdue to a mere 257 total yards. While they have recorded only three sacks against the Boilermakers, their season total stands at ten, tying them for the lowest in the conference. Ohio State’s defense has secured just five interceptions this year, but two of them have been returned for touchdowns, with safety Josh Proctor leading the team with three picks.

In head-to-head matchups, Ohio State has dominated the straight-up battle, winning 9 out of their last 10 meetings against Penn State. However, against the spread, the Nittany Lions have held the advantage, going 7-3 ATS in the last ten games and an impressive 6-1 ATS over the last seven, all while being underdogs. Both teams are tied at 3-0 in the Big Ten East, trailing Michigan State by one win in the conference standings, setting the stage for a pivotal clash.

Notably, this marks the seventh consecutive meeting where both teams face off as ranked opponents, a testament to the enduring competitiveness of their rivalry. In last season’s matchup, won by Ohio State 44-31, Harrison Jr. emerged as a star with 10 receptions for a career-high 185 receiving yards. He is expected to be the focal point of the Penn State defense and a key factor in their quest to secure a victory. If the Lions can contain Ohio State’s standout receiver, they will position themselves favorably for their first win against Ohio State since 2016. However, these two programs are closely matched in all aspects, including special teams. Expect a classic Big Ten battle between heavyweight teams that is sure to deliver an exciting contest, and it’s likely to remain a closely contested game.

Ohio State Players to Watch

Buckeyes Players to Watch

  • Marvin Harrison Jr: Obviously, but this week still might be different. Harrison dropped three passes at Purdue (the same number he dropped during the entire 2022 season) and wasn’t happy about it. The Lions don’t have a single answer for him, which means covering with multiple defenders. That leaves space for players like…
  • Cade Stover: The tight end scored a crushing fourth-quarter touchdown at Beaver Stadium last year and will be quite the matchup test for Penn State’s linebackers. He doesn’t need eight targets to be impactful. Stover catches 78.3 percent of his passes for first downs, according to Sports Info Solutions, and has a perfect on-target catch rate.
  • JT Tuimoloau: Great line from Ohio State’s stat package this week: “Tuimoloau disorderly conducted his way to four turnovers that directly led to 21 Ohio State points: a pass deflection that was intercepted; two interceptions; and a forced fumble.” He’ll be hard-pressed to repeat that, but Penn State can’t let the defensive end change another game. Tuimoloau did most of his damage against the right side of Penn State’s line last year but is lining up against more left tackles this season. Could that mean a duel with Penn State’s Olu Fashanu?

Penn State Nittany Lions Notes

The Lions effortlessly handled their business against an underwhelming UMass opponent, dominating defensively by restricting the Minutemen to a mere 109 total yards in the game. Throughout this season, their defensive prowess has been exceptional, allowing an average of just 193.7 yards per game, making them the sole defense in the nation that concedes less than 200 yards on average. Additionally, they’ve only surrendered 8 points per game, placing them second in the conference and country, trailing only Michigan’s 6.7 points per game. In their recent victory, Penn State recorded seven sacks, bringing their season total to 27, leading the nation with an impressive average of 4.5 sacks per game. Notably, Adisa Isaac is currently tied for the Big Ten lead with five sacks.

Head coach James Franklin expressed, “I believe we’re executing exceptionally well in all aspects of the game: offense, defense, and special teams. This is a source of immense pride for us. I think we’re one of the top teams in the nation when it comes to preventing opponents from entering the red zone. They’re simply not getting there.”

The offensive performance has been equally remarkable, scoring an impressive 44.3 points per game, the highest in the Big Ten and fifth in the country. They are also averaging 426.7 total yards per game, with a conference-leading 203.3 rushing yards per game. Notably, three of their running backs have each surpassed 225 rushing yards, and in conjunction with quarterback Drew Allar, four players have contributed at least three rushing touchdowns. Kaytron Allen leads the team with 375 rushing yards and demonstrated an impressive 7.1 yards per carry against UMass.

Penn State Players to Watch

Penn State Players to Watch

  • Nicholas Singleton: The running back said this week that he feels fresh physically, perhaps because he has just 89 attempts through six games. This also was noteworthy ahead of Saturday. Asked whether he prefers running over defenders or making them miss, Singleton said, “For me, I feel like [it’s] running someone over, let them know I’m here all night, let them get scared, so next time they’ll think about trying to tackle you. I love that.”
  • Harrison Wallace III: Receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith needs some backup. Wallace finally appears healthy enough to provide it. He shook off an early fumble last week against UMass to catch three passes for 44 yards, providing quarterback Drew Allar with a needed target. Wallace is an over-the-top threat who could disrupt the Buckeyes’ secondary. The Lions, who have dropped 14 passes (third-most in the Big Ten), also need some steadiness that Wallace can provide. 
  • KJ Winston Jr.: Penn State should want to avoid a lot of man coverage against Marvin Harrison Jr., meaning a safety must help. Winston (6-2, 203) is a physical defender who can help bracket Harrison and prevent the big play.

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