College Football
Ohio State needs offensive line to step up vs. Penn State
College Football

Ohio State needs offensive line to step up vs. Penn State

Updated Oct. 18, 2023 1:28 p.m. ET

Can No. 3 Ohio State run? Can it stop the run?

Ryan Day might well employ the K.I.S.S. principle for his offensive scheme on Saturday against No. 7 Penn State, as both teams look to pick up a signature win.



For the Buckeyes, that means getting as much out of the run game against Penn State as it did vs. Purdue. OSU bashed the Boilermakers for 152 yards, with fourth-string tailback Dallan Hayden leading the charge.

Hayden accounted for 76 of those aforementioned rush yards on only 11 carries, which bodes well if Day can also get playmaker TreVeyon Henderson back in time for Saturday. Henderson is a home-run hitter at tailback, which he proved in the last game he was healthy enough to play in.

That came against Notre Dame in South Bend, where his 61-yard TD proved to be the difference against a ND front that otherwise held OSU to just 65 rushing yards on the day.

Against the Boilermakers, it was simple plays — counters, stretches, toss sweeps — which led to the Buckeyes' 41-7 win. And in loosening up the Purdue defense with the run, Day was able to dial up passing plays against man-to-man coverage even without injured No. 2 wideout Emeka Egbuka.

Ohio State vs. Penn State: Can the Nittany Lions pull off the upset?

For an Ohio State offensive line that has struggled to be precise but remains extremely talented, getting back to rushing the football with easy-to-execute plays might be the best way forward, especially when facing one of the nation's premier run defenses.

This is the most talented team James Franklin has ever had in State College, in large part due to a wealth of talent on both lines. The Nittany Lions have become the nation's No. 15 rushing offense and its No. 2 rushing defense. Therein lies Penn State's advantage, as the Buckeyes have struggled to find success running the ball until just last week — and Purdue ain't Penn State.

Ohio State ranks just 22nd in stopping the run and an un-Ohio State-like No. 92 in rushing offense. For the program that counts three Heisman winners at tailback — one of whom, Archie Griffin, remains the only man to win it twice — Buckeyes fans have questioned the toughness of Day's teams, which have put so much emphasis on throwing the ball.

Against Michigan last year, that thought was piqued as the Wolverines ran over and through the Buckeyes. But Buckeyes fans remember that Ohio State nearly lost this game against Penn State last year, too. Not only did Ohio State come up with 28 fourth-quarter points after scoring just 16 in the previous three, but the Buckeyes ran for just 98 yards — 3.3 yards per rush.

The last time these two met, Penn State wideout Parker Washington caught 11 passes for 170 yards, and quarterback Sean Clifford threw for 364.

But JT Tuimoloau shook the Nittany Lions: eight tackles, three for a loss, two sacks, two picks — including a pick-six — a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. Had Tuimoloau not put together one of the best defensive performances of the last 20 years, the Buckeyes would have lost that game. No one knows that more than Day, who would like nothing more than to control this game on the ground.

This is the first time that Ohio State and Penn State each meet as 6-0 teams, and it's the biggest Big Ten meeting since Ohio State and Michigan met last year. OSU lost that one by 22.

Further history, though, supports the Buckeyes winning on Saturday. Ohio State has won six straight against Penn State, and 10 of the last 11.

Buckeyes QB Kyle McCord and Penn State QB Drew Allar, an Ohio native, have to put on the best performance of their fledgling careers, and even that might not be enough because these defenses are two of the best in the sport.

Allar has been good about taking care of the ball when he drops back to throw: No INTs, 12 passing TDs (16 total) through 181 attempts. But he has just one 300-yard passing performance.

McCord has tossed two 300-yard games, 11 TDs and just one INT in 170 attempts. And he's got The Martian.

[Do you want more great stories delivered right to you? Here's how you can create or log in to your FOX Sports account, follow your favorite leagues, teams and players and receive a personalized newsletter in your inbox daily.]

For the Buckeyes, though, the question is whether they can stem that PSU offensive line and stop Nick Singleton or Kaytron Allen from gashing them for two bills like Michigan did at their house last season. Singleton and Allen are combining for 121 yards per game on the ground and nine rush TDs.

Does Penn State have a man who can buckle Marvin Harrison Jr., into the child's seat? The Martian is on pace to catch 60 for 1,200 yards and 10 TDs.

Like Oregon-Washington, Utah-USC and Duke-Florida State, this is a CFP play-in game: Whoever wins this one will be set up to battle Michigan for Big Ten supremacy — and gain acclaim as a top-five team.

Penn State did not receive a single vote as the No. 1 in the country in the AP Top 25 this week. Ohio State got one.

Someone will be made right on Saturday.

RJ Young is a national college football writer and analyst for FOX Sports and the host of the podcast "The Number One College Football Show." Follow him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to "The RJ Young Show" on YouTube.


Get more from College Football Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more