The Buckeyes are 6-0! And they have done so without some of their best players, and with a lot of guys not playing fully healthy. Yes, they beat Purdue without their top three running backs and their second-best receiver, but can they repeat that, if needed, against Penn State?
Let’s start with the running backs. Before the game, TreVeyon Henderson was listed as questionable with a rib injury. However, he ended up not dressing for the game. So, it sounds like he could have played if he needed to, but Ryan Day decided to let him heal up for another week before Penn State. Hopefully, he will be back on Saturday, but it is still up in the air.
As for Miyan Williams, there has been no disclosure on why he didn’t play or what injury he has. Chip Trayanum could possibly be in concussion protocol, so that is certainly a tricky situation to deal with, as the Buckeyes definitely don’t want to rush him back too soon.
So, good thing Dallan Hayden is a BEAST, right? He rushed for 76 yards on 11 carries and scored one touchdown against Purdue. Therefore, even if the top three backs are out, Hayden is a running back you certainly have a ton of confidence in. But, it would be nice to have Henderson back as well so there can be a two-man rotation.
On the Penn State side of things, their total defense is the best in the nation. Focusing on their rush defense, they rank third in the nation, allowing 72.5 yards per game. Ohio State has already been struggling to get the run game going, and now with some injuries, it may make it even harder to do so, combined with the fact the Nittany Lions have such a great defense.
Focusing on their pass defense, it’s really freaking good. The best. According to The Athletic, they lead the nation in total defense (193.7 yards per game), yards per play allowed (3.4), passing yards allowed (121.2 per game) and yards allowed per pass attempt (4.6), and they rank third in rushing defense (72.5 per game).
This is going to be a tough matchup. Emeka Egbuka’s status is unclear for Saturday, but even if he plays, who knows how well he will be able to play. Marvin Harrison Jr. will most likely be double-teamed, so that opens the doors for other receivers. Cade Stover will probably continue receiving a ton of targets, and Julian Fleming and Carnell Tate should see some more time too.
The main thing that depends on the Buckeyes’ offensive success is the offensive line. There were some signs of improvement against Purdue, so it will be interesting to see if they play up to their opponent, or if they falter under the pressure. This is the key to the game, in my opinion. Even with some injuries, I think the Buckeyes will still be able to get it done IF the offensive line holds up.
It’s going to be a battle, that is for sure. Ohio State will be the toughest team Penn State has faced this year, and vice versa. It will be unfortunate if the Bucks aren’t at full strength, but the “next man up” mentality has been on display all season long, and they haven’t slowed down. They have so much depth offensively, but will it be enough to overcome the Nittany Lions’ defense? Stay tuned.