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Ohio State’s stout defensive line will be the key to defeating Penn State

Also, how much money are Big Ten championships worth?

NCAA Football: Maryland at Ohio State Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Tamanini Matt Tamanini is the co-managing editor of Land-Grant Holy Land having joined the site in 2016.

“These are aruably (sic) the two best teams in the Big Ten, as the Nittany Lions are No. 2 in the nation, while the Buckeyes are No. 6. The winner will be in the driver’s seat to win the Big Ten East and advance to the league title game, where a shot to earn a playoff bid probably will be on the line.”

- Tom Dienhart,

In his article, Dienhart lays out the four keys to this Saturday’s matchup between No. 2 Penn State and No. 6 Ohio State. While he discusses things like PSU’s linebackers vs. quarterback J.T. Barrett, running back Saquon Barkley vs. OSU’s LBs, and the Buckeye secondary vs. the PSU wideouts, the matchup that he leads with is the one between the Ohio State defensive line and the Penn State offensive line.

Ohio State’s unit has been hailed as the best defensive front in college football, not only because of the breadth of talent on the line, but because of the depth as well. D-line coach Larry Johnson has assembled a room that can rotate in anywhere from six to 10 players without a significant drop in productivity.

Sophomore Nick Bosa leads the way for the Buckeyes with 10 tackles for loss, also the best in the conference, but Tyquan Lewis, Tracy Sprinkle, Dre’mont Jones, Sam Hubbard, and Jalyn Holmes are also capable of disrupting any play at any time.

With the creativity that Penn State head coach James Franklin and offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead have used in getting the ball to Heisman frontrunner Barkley, the Buckeye defensive line will need to win the battle in the trenches to be able to keep Barkley under control. If Bosa, Lewis, et al. can win the battle up front and free up the linebackers to make plays, it should give OSU some breathing room against the country’s best scoring defense.

Also, the unit’s ability to stay fresh against a fast-paced, creative, and bruising offense could pay huge dividends if the game is close late.

It also wouldn’t hurt the Ohio State cause if Barrett could make a few plays around the goal-line like this one from the 2012 contest.

“(Urban) Meyer makes more money than all but three of his peers. Two of them - (Nick) Saban and (Dabo) Swinney - are the only coaches who have won national titles more recently than Meyer. The third, (Jim) Harbaugh, is still looking for his first win against Ohio State.”

- Doug Lesmerises,

Today, USA Today published its annual look at the state of college football coaches’ salaries. After looking at the list, the obvious joke is that in the top four “one of these things just doesn’t belong here,” as Saban, Swinney, and Meyer have all won national championships (and in the case of Saban and Meyer, multiple), while Jim Harbaugh has yet to win a collegiate conference title since the 2006 Pioneer Football League.

The coach did get his Stanford Cardinal teams to runner-up positions in the Pac-10 in 2009 and 2010, before taking his San Francisco 49ers to the Super Bowl and another conference championship game in the NFL.

However, Harbaugh bashing aside, it is interesting that with Michigan and Ohio State at third and fourth, the next Big Ten teams on the list are Penn State and Iowa at 12th and 13th. The SEC leads the way with nine schools in the top-25 on the list, while the B1G is tied with the Pac-12 with five apiece.

One of the explanations for why the Big Ten has gone from also-ran to arguably the best conference in football for each of the last two years is because Meyer has forced the conference’s other coaches (and athletic directors) to up their game. As the rich get richer in the B1G, will other schools on the outside of the championship race start ponying up the cash to try and be competitive?

USA Today’s Coaches Salary Database

3 Michigan Jim Harbaugh $7,004,000 $7,004,000 $1,325,000 $200,000 $20,555,556
4 Ohio State Urban Meyer $6,431,240 $6,431,240 $775,000 $300,000 $21,345,100
12 Penn State James Franklin $4,600,000 $4,600,000 $1,000,000 $900,000 $21,858,333
13 Iowa Kirk Ferentz $4,550,000 $4,550,000 $2,875,000 $600,000 $22,537,500
16 Michigan State Mark Dantonio $4,380,492 $4,390,492 $650,000 $0 $7,000,000
29 Minnesota P.J. Fleck $3,500,000 $3,500,000 $900,000 -- $9,583,333
31 Purdue Jeff Brohm $3,333,333 $3,333,333 $1,200,000 -- $15,844,445
32 Northwestern Pat Fitzgerald $3,305,818 $3,305,818 -- -- --
36 Wisconsin Paul Chryst $3,200,000 $3,200,000 -- $260,000 $4,000,000
39 Illinois Lovie Smith $3,000,000 $3,000,000 $1,000,000 $75,000 $16,500,000
42 Nebraska Mike Riley $2,900,000 $2,900,000 $950,000 $150,000 $6,630,000
47 Maryland DJ Durkin $2,462,000 $2,462,000 $625,000 $25,000 $6,833,104
54 Rutgers Chris Ash $2,100,000 $2,100,000 $960,000 $50,000 $7,425,000
60 Indiana Tom Allen $1,830,000 $1,830,000 $1,441,668 -- $2,500,000

“We’re still showing 10 teams with more than a 20 percent chance to make the playoff, the same 10 we had last week: Alabama and Ohio State as more likely than not, then TCU, Clemson, Washington, Penn State, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Miami and Georgia tightly bunched between 20 and 30 percent.”

- Cade Massey and Rufus Peabody, The Washington Post

Whether it’s Bill James, Billy Beane, Daryl Morey, Five Thirty-Eight, or your fantasy sports obsessed co-worker, everybody is trying to use data and analytics to predict what will happen in sports.

Over at The Washington Post, Massey and Peabody have published their latest forecast, and they currently have Ohio State projected to win the Big Ten, and advance to the College Football Playoff. They have the Buckeyes as a 54 percent favorite to make the final four.

In fact, only the No. 1 Alabama Crimson Tide (76 percent) has a better shot at making it to the playoff than the Buckeyes. ‘Bama and OSU are also the only teams with better than 50/50 odds to do so.

If you dive into their analysis, Penn State comes in as the sixth most likely team to make the CFP (tied with Wisconsin), but at 26 percent, they are less than half as likely than the Buckeyes to get that playoff berth.

Massey and Peabody estimate less than half of a loss for OSU through the end of the regular season, while the Nittany Lions are estimated to lose 1.1 games. So, despite PSU’s undefeated record, and last year’s upset in Happy Valley, apparently, the smart money is on the Buckeyes.

Massey-Peabody Week-9 Projections

Team MP MP Rank E(Ws) E(Ls) P(L<2) Conf Champ Playoff
Team MP MP Rank E(Ws) E(Ls) P(L<2) Conf Champ Playoff
Alabama 35.62 1 11.7 0.3 97% 69% 76%
Ohio State 31.8 2 10.6 1.4 68% 64% 54%
TCU 19.98 9 10.7 1.3 63% 36% 31%
Clemson 24.97 3 10.2 1.8 43% 42% 30%
Washington 22.75 7 10.1 1.9 39% 39% 27%
Penn State 22.85 6 10.9 1.1 79% 12% 26%
Wisconsin 19.65 11 11.4 0.6 86% 24% 26%
Oklahoma 24.03 4 10.1 1.9 37% 41% 25%
Miami (FL) 17.34 15 9.7 1.3 59% 29% 25%
Georgia 23.51 5 10.8 1.2 66% 22% 21%