Ohio State has made one thing routine this season: It has bruised the Big Ten's best run defenses.
When the Buckeyes faced Wisconsin last month, they ran for 264 yards, more than double the total the Badgers typically allow. In a win over Michigan State three weeks earlier, they rushed for 323 yards, a total that was triple the average given up by the Spartans defense.
Their most formidable foe, though, comes to Ohio Stadium on Saturday.
Penn State is the conference's top-ranked rush defense, allowing 75.9 yards per game, the fourth-lowest total in the nation.
“They're really sound in what they do and they come off and hit you,” Ohio State tight end Luke Farrell said. “They're not afraid to hit you in the mouth and see how you respond.”
Farrell added that it was a “similar mindset” to Wisconsin's defense.
Outside linebacker Micah Parsons is a critical part of the Nittany Lions' front seven as he leads the team with 75 tackles, along with defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos, who has a team-high 10.5 tackles for loss.
“It's a challenge for us because they're very, very good at what they do,” Ohio State coach Ryan Day said. “You have to figure out ways schematically to go at them and figure out how you're going to defeat their schemes.
“But then at the end of the day, it comes back to what we talked about, which is toughness and getting the game to the fourth quarter and then wearing them down and then doing everything you can to go win the game in the fourth quarter.”
For seniors only
Ohio State's senior day festivities will be reserved for seniors.
Day said Ohio State will recognize only seniors during the final home game against Penn State on Saturday and won't include NFL draft-eligible underclassmen.
Defensive end Chase Young and cornerback Jeff Okudah are among the most prominent juniors who can turn pro after this season. They are projected by analysts as possible top picks.
“That's something that's special, that when you put in four or five years into the program you get a chance to do that,” Day said. “For guys that decide early, they don't typically get that opportunity, not that that's right, wrong or indifferent, that's just our policy.”
Day said senior receiver C.J. Saunders, who is expected to miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, is interested in pursuing a sixth year of eligibility, a step that requires a hardship waiver to be submitted to the NCAA. “But there is still a lot to be done before that happens,” Day said. ... J.K. Dobbins was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's top running back. The only Ohio State player to win the award was Eddie George in 1995.