Since 2005, no Big Ten team has had more defensive players win All-Conference honors than Ohio State (43), with Penn State checking in second (26).
Three of the past four seasons, both Ohio State and Penn State have finished in the top 20 nationally in total defense. (The lone exception was 2016, when the Nittany Lions ended up 37th.)
So, of course, tonight's game promises to be a shootout.
Penn State and Ohio State are the two top scoring teams in the country. Two Big Ten teams haven’t played each other as the nation’s top scorers since 1962.— Mitch Stacy (@mitchstacy) September 27, 2018
It's not that either defense is bad. (Ohio State is 24th and Penn State is 35th in terms of points allowed.) But they each have a weakness heading into this evening's 7:30 kickoff.
For the Buckeyes, it is obviously giving up long runs. They remain the only FBS team to have allowed three rushes of 70 yards or more.
For the Nittany Lions, it's the run game, period. They are 82nd in the country in that category, as they give up an average of 172.50 rushing yards per game.
On the other hand, Penn State is making life miserable for opposing offensive lines. Led by Shareef Miller, who has six tackles for loss, and who had 1.5 TFLs and a fumble recovery against OSU last year, Penn State has recorded more TFLs than all but Miami (Florida) and Mississippi State.
Miller has as many sacks (3.0) as the Wisconsin Badgers at this point.
Meanwhile, senior defensive back Amani Oruwariye is 14th nationally in passes defended (7); he has two picks and a forced fumble.
It is the offense, however, that is making headlines in Happy Valley.
Despite losing all-everything running back Saquon Barkley, receiver DaeSean Hamilton, tight end Mike Gesicki and even coordinator Joe Moorhead (now Mississippi State's head coach), Penn State leads the country in points per game (55.5).
One player they haven't had to replace is senior quarterback Trace McSorley. Almost as much as former Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin was once described as possessing "moxie," McSorley has been said to be "competitive."
"He's a competitor," noted Ohio State signal caller Dwayne Haskins, who attended a high school exactly thirty miles away from McSorley. "Competitive edge...Just a really fierce competitor."
"He's a great quarterback, the best one, it looks like, that we're going to see this year," added linebacker Pete Werner, before also noting McSorley's competitiveness. "He's just a guy that has a drive to win games."
Head coach Urban Meyer was fairly succinct on the subject. "A winner, a guy that can do it all," he said. Then naturally, "And a competitor."
McSorley has a somewhat pedestrian completion percentage (53.8), but has not thrown a pick since he had two in the opener, and has eight touchdown passes. He has an additional six touchdowns rushing.
In fact, his 235 yards on the grounds is only behind that of 5'11" running back Miles Sanders. Fun fact: since he sat behind Barkley for so long, he has not actually run for miles at Penn State. Sanders' career total would add up to a little less than a half of a mile (.494).
This season, though, Sanders is averaging 7.0 yards per carry. He is seventh nationally with 495 yards on the ground, and he already has four runs of 20+ yards.
Finally, the Ohio State defense will want to be aware of KJ Hamler. Shorter than even Sanders (5'9"), he's nevertheless made a big impact with three touchdown catches, and in all but the team's rout of Pittsburgh, he has a catch of 20 yards or more.
- This will be the first time since 1998 that Ohio State and Penn State have been undefeated when facing each other.
- Ohio State has not given up a fourth quarter score all year, but Penn State has outscored opponents by a combined total of 84-28 in the fourth quarter this season.
- Trace McSorely is competitive...in case you hadn't heard.
Something to keep in the back of your mind this week. In the past two meetings between Ohio State and Penn State, a team has entered the fourth quarter with a two touchdown lead and that team lost both games.— Ben Jones (@Ben_Jones88) September 23, 2018