#9 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1) vs #2 Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0)
Can Penn State steal a win and the Big Ten East division title?
Coach: James Franklin
Penn State Players to watch
*Junior DE Yetur Gross-Matos (6-5/265)
On Wednesday, Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca discussed a bit of the game plan along the offensive line. He mentioned how the Gophers rotate bodies to stay fresh and maximize matchups, and he particularly took time to highlight Penn State’s Yetur Gross-Matos.
“99 (Yetur Gross-Matos) is going to be, well, I don’t know if he’s going to be a first-rounder, but I’d pick him in the first round,” praised Ciarrocca. “He’s going to be a high pick in the draft. So just trying to get maybe a little bit more mass on him. I didn’t think it was going to confuse them, but I knew it was something they weren’t working on.”
In his career, Gross-Matos has 31 tackles for loss and 14.5 sacks. He is definitely among the top edge players in the country and is a likely candidate to forego his senior season for the 2020 NFL Draft.
**Sophomore WLB Micah Parsons (6-3/241)
A 2018 Freshman All-American and 2019 semifinalist for the Butkus Award — presented annually to college football’s best linebacker, Penn State linebacker Micah Parsons did not start at Minnesota last Saturday, and head coach James Franklin won’t say why beyond describing it as ‘behavior modification.’
Approximately two years removed from making Parsons his program’s highest-rated recruit signee since 2005, Franklin was quick to follow by issuing an overall endorsement of the rising star.
“I also want you guys to understand, Micah really has been good,” he said. “He’s doing really well in school. This is all new to him. It’s a big change; the amount of structure, the expectations, the standards are different. And 99.9-percent of the time, he’s been good.”
**Sophomore QB Sean Clifford (6-2/218)
On Nov. 9, Penn State became a one-loss team going down 31-26 to #17 Minnesota. The upset loss was the first for Clifford as a college starter. Before that, he hadn’t lost as a starting QB since Oct. 14, 2016 — his senior year of high school — in a 19-18 defeat to Warren Central.
Last week, with nine minutes left in the game, Clifford led a methodical, clock-eating 18-play drive that would finish with a Clifford touchdown to put the game on ice. “We believe in Clifford,” tight end Nick Bowers said. “He’s been a tremendous leader.”
Heading into the Ohio State game, Clifford told the media, “I can promise that this will be the best week of preparation that we will have. We will not be denied that. We’ll be extremely, extremely prepared next week.”
*Junior CB Tariq Castro-Fields (6-0/185)
After allowing Minnesota quarterback Tanner Morgan to throw for 339 yards and three touchdowns a week ago, there was a hope that the secondary would make some adjustments and show improvement for this week. Instead, Indiana finished the game with 371 total passing yards, a new career-high for QB Patrick Ramsey.
After the game, Penn State cornerback Tariq Castro-Fields credited miscommunication on defense as the reason for allowing the big plays. “I think we are one of the best defenses in the nation when we communicate, when everybody’s on the same page, but those plays were just miscommunication.”
The Nittany Lions better get things figured out in the secondary quickly before heading to Columbus for the next game to take on the dangerous Buckeyes. Castro-Fields currently has two interceptions and eight passes defended this year.
Coach: Ryan Day
Ohio State Players to watch:
*Junior DE Chase Young (6-5/265)
Ohio State star defensive lineman Chase Young will return to action against Penn State. Young has been suspended for an NCAA rules violation. He admitted that he accepted a loan last year from someone he described as a “family friend” but repaid it in full.
Young has 13.5 sacks this season — just one-half sack shy of Ohio State’s single-season record. He had four sacks, five tackles for loss and two forced fumbles against the Badgers (his last game prior to the suspension), a performance that put him in the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Possibly the number one overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s questionable if any player has been more dominant than Chase Young. Ohio State is the nation’s only team allowing fewer than 10 (9.8) points per game.
Senior FS Jordan Fuller (6-2/207)
Ohio State football’s Jordan Fuller has been named as one of the 12 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy – also known as the Academic Heisman. The two-time captain has been selected as an Academic All-American and All-Big Ten the past two seasons as well as the Big Ten Conference Distinguished Scholar in 2018.
Fuller could have left for the NFL after his junior season in 2018, but decided to stay and just like Damon Arnette that has proven to be a great decision. Fuller’s play has not only helped make Ohio State the best defense in the country it has also helped improve his draft stock going into this next NFL draft. Showing his ability to play single-high safety this year while proving in the past that he can come down in the box gives him versatility that every team wants in today’s game.
But what truly separates Fuller is something you can’t always measure on the field, and that is the leadership he provides for this team. Fuller is only the 14th two-time captain in school history and has set a fantastic standard on and off the field. For example, just this week, he was announced as a semifinalist for the Jason Witten Man of the Year award. This award is given to the player who has demonstrated a record of leadership by exhibiting exceptional courage, integrity, and sportsmanship both on and off the field.
*Junior CB Jeffery Okudah (6-1/199)
Looking like a top 15 lock at the very least, depending on how the board falls, is star cornerback Jeffrey Okudah. Listed as the top cornerback in this 2020 NFL Draft class, Okudah has elite footwork off the line of scrimmage, combine with great hand usage that make him a dominant press coverage cornerback.
Standing at 6-1 and 200 pounds, Okudah is bigger and stronger than he appears on film, and it is evident by his ability to bully receivers at the line of scrimmage and track with them stride for stride down the field. Okudah also has elite ball tracking ability, evidenced on film and also by his box score numbers of three picks and four passes defended at this point in his 2019 campaign.
Last year, Okudah tied for the team lead with eight pass break-ups.
**Sophomore OG Wyatt Davis (6-4/315)
One of the most pleasant surprises on the Ohio State football team has been the performance of the offensive line. Davis, a third-year sophomore, is confident about the Buckeyes’ offensive line as a whole and says the group prides itself on being extra physical. The Buckeyes have bludgeoned their schedule this season, winning by an average of 41.7 points, the nation’s highest margin of victory. Ohio State is the nation’s only team scoring more than 50 points (51.5).
“Yeah, that’s kind of been the emphasis since fall camp,” Davis said. “We wanted to change the culture and what people were already making assumptions about us before the season had even started. You know, as far as we’re a young team and we lost a lot of guys.”
“So, that’s really been the emphasis as far as getting up on teams early and trying to assert your dominance as early as you can in the game. And so far up to this point, I feel like we’ve done a pretty good job of doing it. Obviously, we’re still working on ways to get better as the weeks go on, but we’ve definitely been trying to just play physical and play hard. So, I think we’ve been doing a fair job of that.”
Justin Fields and J.K. Dobbins have missed out on a ton of stat-padding opportunities by rarely playing much in the second half of games — even though both the quarterback and tailback still have pretty impressive numbers as it is.
Ohio Stadium – FieldTurf
Nov. 23 | Columbus, Ohio
*Note: Rankings are based on the CFP (College Football Playoff Rankings).