STATE COLLEGE – Penn State head coach James Franklin didn’t mince words about his team’s upcoming opponent.

No. 9 Penn State (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten) travels to No. 2 Ohio State (10-0, 7-0) this weekend to play the highest-ranked foe the Nittany Lions have faced this season.

“Probably the most talented roster we’ve watched on tape, definitely this year, maybe since we’ve been here,” Franklin said. “It’s going to be a great challenge.”

The  last three meetings between Penn State and Ohio State have been decided by a total just five points. Ohio State is 2-1 during those games. The Nittany Lions’ last win came in 2016 after the now-iconic blocked field goal and scoop-and-score touchdown that secured a 24-21 win.

“If you go back all the way to 2014, (when) they won the national championship, our first year, (we) took them to double overtime if I remember correctly,” Franklin said. “We've had a lot of competition with these guys. We've played them probably as well as anybody over that period of time.”

The Nittany Lions' passing attack could be a disadvantage if yards-receiving leader KJ Hamler is unavailable. Hamler was injured in the first half against Indiana.

"We'll wait and see, but we were hopeful after the game," Franklin said. "I still remain hopeful. Again, the medical professionals will make those decisions."

New faces abound on both rosters.

First-year Ohio State head coach Ryan Day is off to a 10-0 start in his inaugural season in Columbus. He served as offensive coordinator under former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer. While Day’s role has changed, his fingerprint on the offense hasn’t.

The Buckeyes boast the nation’s top-scoring offense at 51.5 points per game. They've scored 70 touchdowns this year and have kicked just eight field goals.

Day isn’t the only first-year member of the Buckeyes who has experienced success this season. First-year quarterback Justin Fields has been among the nation’s most efficient at the position. The Georgia transfer and one-time Penn State verbal commit has thrown for 2,164 yards and 31 touchdowns against just one interception. He leads the Big Ten in passing efficiency.

A true dual-threat signal-caller, Fields has also run for 377 yards and 10 touchdowns.

“He's special, of course,” Penn State defensive end Shaka Toney said. “We don't single out any other player more than anybody else as far as the d-line. Most quarterbacks you're going to play in the Big Ten are going to be good or great, (and) do something well. You just got to approach them the right way. You can't let him get out the pocket, things like that. You have to do your job as a defensive end.”

Toney and Yetur Gross-Matos are bookends on a Penn State defensive line that has accumulated 33 sacks (11th in FBS) this season. The Nittany Lions have recorded 22 sacks in Big Ten play, with 10 of them coming against Purdue.

 The Buckeyes’ offensive line is yielding 2.2 sacks per game.

Fields has a plethora of offensive weapons at his disposal. Running back J.K. Dobbins ranks second in the Big Ten with 1,289 yards rushing and 13 touchdowns. Wide receiver Chris Olave has a team-high 593 yards receiving and nine touchdowns.

Defensively, Ohio State also leads the nation in scoring defense (9.8 points per game). It hasn’t yielded more than 21 points this season to an opponent.

The Buckeyes will welcome the return of defensive lineman Chase Young, who served a two-game suspension (Maryland and Rutgers) while the NCAA investigated a possible violation from 2018.

Young was touted as a possible Heisman candidate before his suspension. He’s accumulated an eye-popping 13.5 sacks and five forced fumbles in eight games played.

“I probably haven't seen, watching film, another dude like Chase,” Penn State tight end Pat Freiermuth said. “Obviously Chase Winovich (former Michigan defensive end), maybe. Chase Young is a great player. He just jumps out, he's so physical. Physically dominant. He just rushes the passer really well. He stops the run really well. Just an athlete out there… We just got to be on our A-game, identify him wherever he is on the field just so he can't wreck our game plan.”

Penn State at Ohio State

When: Noon today

Where: Ohio Stadium

Last year/series history: Ohio State defeated Penn State, 27-26/Ohio State leads series 19-14

TV/radio/: FOX; WKOK 1070AM

No. 9 PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten)


No.      Player                      Pos.    Ht.      Wt.      Yr.

88        Dan Chisena           WR     6-3      202       Sr.

87        Pat Freiermuth         TE       6-5      256      So.

53        Rasheed Walker      LT        6-6      324      So.

74        Steven Gonzalez     LG       6-4      341     Sr.

62        Michal Menet            C         6-4      313     R-Jr.

69        C.J. Thorpe            RG         6-3      322     R-So.

71        Will Fries                   RT       6-6      313     R-Jr.

1          KJ Hamler                 WR     5-9      176     R-So. 

5          Jahan Dotson           WR     5-11    175     So.

14        Sean Clifford            QB      6-2      216     R-So.

4          Journey Brown         RB      5-11    206     R-So

92        Jake Pinegar            K         6-2      195     So.

99        Blake Gillikin            P         6-2      196     Sr.


No.      Player                         Pos.    Ht.      Wt.      Yr.

18        Shaka Toney            DE      6-3      243     R-Jr.

54        Robert Windsor        DT       6-4      285     Sr.

55        Antonio Shelton       DT       6-2      311     R-Jr.

99        Yetur Gross-Matos   DE      6-5      264     Jr.

6          Cam Brown               OLB    6-5      233     Sr.

36        Jan Johnson            MLB    6-2      231     Sr.

11        Micah Parsons         OLB    6-3      245     So.

5          Tariq Castro-Fields  CB      6-0      197     Jr.

17        Garrett Taylor            S         6-0      198     Sr.

38        Lamont Wade           S         5-9      199     Jr.

29        John Reid                 CB      5-10    181     Sr.



No.      Player                         Pos.    Ht.      Wt.      Yr.

75        Thayer Munford           LT     6-6      310     Jr.

73        Jonah Jackson            LG     6-4      305     Sr.

71        Josh Myers                  C       6-5      310     So.

52        Wyatt Davis                RG      6-4      315    So.

76        Branden Bowen          RT       6-7     315    Sr.

1          Justin Fields               QB      6-3      223    So.

2          J.K. Dobbins               RB      5-10    217    Jr.

17        Chris Olave                WR      6-1      185    So.

9          Binjimen Victor           WR      6-4      199    Sr.

14         K.J. Hill                      H-Back 6-0      195   Sr.

89        Luke Farrell           TE       6-6    250     Jr.

85        Blake Haubeil         K         6-3   230     Jr.

91        Drew Chrisman      P         6-3    220     Jr.


No.      Player                         Pos.    Ht.      Wt.      Yr.

2          Chase Young             DE      6-5     245     Jr.

53        Davon Hamilton         NT      6-4     310     Sr.

9          Jashon Cornell           DT       6-3     285     Sr.

54        Tyler Friday                DE       6-3     260     So.

20        Pete Werner               LB       6-3     239     Jr.

32        Tuff Borland               LB        6-1     232     Jr.

39        Malik Harrison          LB       6-3     245     Sr.

3          Damon Arnette           CB      6-0     195     Sr.

1          Jeff Okudah                CB      6-1     200     Jr.

24        Shaun Wade               CB      6-1     194     So.

4          Jordan Fuller              FS       6-2     205     Sr.

Recommended for you