Big Ten East titans set for annual clash
Saturday: Ohio State 49, Tulane 6
Next game: at Penn State
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, Pa.
TV: ABC (Channel 6)
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)
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As expected, it’s the renewal of a modern classic series: Ohio State at Penn State for front-runner status in the B1G East.
In the polls
Ohio State stayed put at No. 4 in both the coaches’ poll and The Associated Press media poll behind status-quo Alabama, Clemson and Georgia. Penn State stayed No. 9 in the coaches’ poll and moved up one spot to No. 9 in the AP.
Both the Buckeyes’ and Nittany Lions’ offenses, which is why this has the earmarks of a showdown shootout. Led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins Jr., who is No. 3 nationally in passing efficiency, the Buckeyes are second in the nation in scoring (54.5-point average) and No. 3 in total offense (599.0-yard average). OSU is the first team in the Big Ten to start a season with four straight games of 500-plus total yards since Minnesota in 2005. With veteran QB Trace McSorley running the show, the Nittany Lions are No. 1 nationally in scoring (55.5) and No. 16 in total offense (514.5).
Haskins has thrown 16 touchdown passes, second in the nation to Hawaii’s Cole McDonald (20), and the Rainbow Warriors already have played five games. Haskins’ completion percentage of 75.7 is No. 2 behind Eastern Michigan’s Tyler Wiegers (76.1), and Haskins is averaging a Big Ten-best 298.5 yards passing. McSorley is a mere 106th in completion percentage (53.8), but he has thrown for eight TDs, including three in the come-from-behind win at Illinois on Friday night, and he has rushed for 53 yards or more three times, including 92 at Illinois.
Picking up the slack
Ohio State defensive linemen DreMont Jones, Jonathon Cooper, Chase Young, Jashon Cornell, Davon Hamilton and others pledged to make up the difference for end Nick Bosa, who is out indefinitely with a sports hernia, and they did so against a run option-oriented Tulane. The challenge increases dramatically this week in trying to pressure the sneaky McSorley while trying to corral Miles Sanders, one of the breakout players in the Big Ten (third in rushing with a 123.8-yard average).
OSU coach Urban Meyer said that running back Mike Weber suffered a right foot strain against Tulane. Meyer added that he expects Weber to be available at Penn State.
Sean Nuernberger has never missed a point-after kick for the Buckeyes, and the senior ran his streak to 206 in a row with the seven made against Tulane. That leaves him 27 short of the major college record of 233 straight set by Alex Trlica of Texas Tech from 2004-07. Meanwhile, Nuernberger leads the Big Ten in kick scoring (38 points).
Penn State rose from a sluggish start at Illinois on Friday night to win going away 63-24, scoring the last 42 points after trailing 24-21 in the third quarter. Though the offense has delivered yards and points, the Nittany Lions are only ninth in the Big Ten in total defense (345.8-yard average). But then Ohio State (323.3) is just No. 8.
This week’s challenge
Against the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium, in a “white out the night” setting, it is never easy, as the Buckeyes’ trip there in 2016 proved. That’s why the goal is straightforward: Just win, baby, as the late Al Davis used to say.