#20 Penn State Games Preview for #5 Ohio State Matchup

James Franklin Penn State head coach 2019 photo. By NoahRiffe – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. – No. 20/17 Penn State takes on No. 5/5 Ohio State on Saturday in Ohio Stadium. Kickoff is set for 7:30 p.m. on ABC. The 2021 season is presented by PSECU.

SERIES HISTORY: The Nittany Lions will meet Ohio State for the 37th matchup. Three of the last five matchups have been decided by three or less points. In 2020, Penn State fell 38-25 in Beaver Stadium. Sean Clifford threw for 281 yards and three touchdowns. All three scores were caught by Jahan Dotson, who finished the game with eight receptions for 144 yards. Ellis Brooks led the PSU defense with 11 tackles and one tackle for loss.

RED ZONE BATTLE: Saturday’s game will feature the Big Ten’s best red zone defense against its best red zone offense. Penn State leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh in the country allowing a 65.2 conversion rate in the red zone and holding opponents scoreless eight times, tied for the nation’s best. Ohio State paces the conference and holds sixth in the nation with a 96.6 conversion rate including 23 touchdowns in 29 trips.

MORE TAKEAWAYS: The Nittany Lions forced three takeaways against Illinois. Curtis Jacobs recorded an interception in the first quarter, Brandon Smith forced a fumble in the second quarter and Derrick Tangelo and Nick Tarburton worked to force another fumble in the third quarter. Penn State has forced a turnover in 13-straight games (20 total takeaways) dating back to the 2020 season.

LONG RECEPTIONS: Jahan DotsonKeAndre Lambert-Smith and Parker Washington have combined for 18 catches of 20-plus yards this season. Dotson leads the group with eight 20-plus yard catches, including a 36-yard grab against Illinois. Washington has six 20-plus yard receptions, while Lambert-Smith has four, including a 42-yard touchdown against the Illini. Dotson has caught at least one 20-yard pass in 24 career games.

THE OPPOSITION: Ohio State is coming off a 54-7 win over Indiana last Saturday. The Buckeyes tallied 539 yards, including 382 through the air. C.J. Stroud completed 21-of-28 passes for 266 yards and four touchdowns. TreVeyon Henderson scored three touchdowns, two rushing and one receiving, while rushing for 81 yards. The Buckeyes recorded 14 tackles for loss as they held Indiana to 128 total yards.


  • Ohio State is 6-1 this season with wins over Minnesota (45-31), Tulsa (41-20), Akron (59-7), Rutgers (52-13), Maryland (66-17) and Indiana (54-7).
  • Ryan Day became the 25th head football coach at Ohio State on Jan. 2, 2019.
  • Day is in his third full season with a career record of 29-3, a 19-0 mark in Big Ten Conference games, and two Big Ten Championships and two College Football Playoff appearances.
  • The Buckeyes’ offense leads the country in scoring (49.3 ppg) and total yards (559.7), while ranking seventh in passing offense (352.1) and 25th in rushing offense (207.6).
  • QB CJ Stroud has completed 68 percent of his passes for 1,965 yards and 22 touchdowns.
  • Stroud paces the Big ten in passing yards per game (327.5), passing touchdowns (22), yards per completion (15.7) and passing efficiency (192.8).
  • WR Garrett Wilson leads the receiving corps with 36 receptions, 605 yards and six touchdowns, while WR Chris Olave has 32 catches for 518 yards and eight scores.
  • RB TreVeyon Henderson paces the Buckeyes with 686 rushing yards (98.0 per game) and nine touchdowns.
  • Ohio State’s defense sits 18th in the nation in scoring (18.6 ppg), 48th in total defense (350.3), 73rd in passing defense (230.9) and 28th in rushing defense (119.4).
  • S Ronnie Hickman leads the Buckeyes with 52 tackles and two interceptions.
  • DT Haskell Garrett paces the unit with 6.0 tackles for loss and 4.5 sacks.


  • The nine overtime-game set an NCAA record for most overtimes across all divisions. The previous NCAA football mark was an eight-overtime game between Bethune-Cookman and Virginia State in 1998. In FBS, there have been six, seven-overtime games.
  • The nine-overtime game came under the NCAA’s overtime format, adopted before the 2021 season, which includes teams trading 2-point conversion attempts beginning in the third overtime.
  • Penn State’s previous longest overtime game was a four-overtime win over Michigan (43-40) in 2013.
  • The Nittany Lions held Illinois to 38 yards passing, on 21 attempts, the second-lowest mark under James Franklin.
  • Dating back to the Nebraska game in 2020, Penn State has forced a turnover in 13-straight games (20 total, 14 interceptions, 6 fumbles).
  • Penn State has held opponents to 24 or less points in 11-straight games, dating back to the Michigan game in 2020.
  • Ji’Ayir Brown (13), LB Ellis Brooks (11) and DE Arnold Ebiketie (10) all had double-digit tackles. It was the first time Penn State had three players with 10+ tackles in a game since 2019 at Ohio State (Micah Parsons, 11; Garrett Taylor, 11; Lamont Wade 11).


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