Ohio State Vs. Penn State Preview

The Buckeyes enter the game against division rival Penn State undefeated and still clinging to the number one ranking by a slim margin. The two quarterback system yielded much success against Maryland last Saturday. J.T. Barret looked masterful in the red zone, but will the Buckeyes deploy the same strategy against the Nittany Lions (5-1 Overall, 2-0 Conference). The Buckeye offense scored on all six trips to the red zone against the Terrapins. On Monday, Coach Urban Meyer confirmed Cardale Jones is still the starter until proved otherwise. However, the Buckeyes will be unveiling something new when the take the field on Saturday. Perhaps taking a page out of Penn State’s “white out” book, Ohio State will sporting all black jerseys in an attempt to “black out” the Horseshoe.

The Nittany Lions lone loss was to Temple in the season opener, a debacle which led to 10 sacks of quarterback and potential top 10 NFL Draft pick, Christian Hackenberg. Ohio State will look to get pressure of the edge with NFL bound ends Joey Bosa and Aldophus Washington. Since the Temple game, Hackenberg has taken 9 sacks and hasn’t played the best of football. He has only thrown for over 60% once this season. The offense has run through the ground game, running back Akeel Lynch  has looked impressive at times but is questionable for this Saturday. If ready he can make a big impact since it is no secret the Buckeyes have struggled against the run this season. The good news is that OSU will be able to pin their ears back in passing situations and not have worry about a scrambling quarterback (something they struggled with last week).

Ohio State tailback Ezekiel Elliot looks primed to continue his streak of 100 yard rushing performances against Penn State’s 38th ranked run defense, which only surrenders 117 yards per game. Elliot will have to rely on his offensive line to find holes and take the pressure off Cardale Jones.

Ultimately this game comes down to whether Ohio State gets hot early or spins the wheels. If the Buckeyes score as efficiently as they did last week, the Nittany Lions will be in trouble. My prediction for the game: Ohio State 45 Penn State 17.

-Q

Note: All Stats via ESPN.com

Heisman Hopefuls: Front-runners and Breakout Stars to Watch in 2015

The most distinguished award in collegiate athletics is always heavily sought after and the subject of every players dream, to hoist the coveted stiff arming statue.  The Heisman Memorial Trophy’s winner from this season class are:

1.  Ezekiel Elliot- Junior RB 6/1

The Buckeyes stand out tailback showed that all that glitters is gold after a gaudy trio of stellar performances in the inaugural College Football Playoffs.  Elliot flexed his muscle and delivered with 220 yards against Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, followed up the feat rushing for a Sugar Bowl record against the Crimson Tide and then gashed the Ducks for 246 yards in the National title game.  It is obvious that Elliot seen an increase in workload after the injury to star Quarterback J.T Barrett late in the season.  The Buckeyes leaned on the flashy back to take them to the promise land, and sure enough he was able to deliver.  His ability and unprecedented speed has pro scouts drooling.  It is very difficult for tailbacks to win the award now with the emergence of the dual threat quarterback now in the College Football, I mean Melvin Gordon almost broke Barry Sanders astonishing single season rushing record and came home empty.  So what makes me think Elliot has the tools to become the first tailback to receive the honor since Mark Ingram? His vision and elusiveness is what makes Zeke a premiere pick for the award. He has the patience to wait on a hole to open before exploiting it with break neck speed.  If Zeke runs for over 2,000 yards and 25 tds along with a few hundred receiving yards, it will be hard to turn him away at the podium come late December.

2. Trevone Boykin- Senior QB TCU 7/1

Boykin turned in a fine 2014 campaign, finishing fourth in the Heisman trophy voting.  Now with an FBS high 10 returning offensive starters, it is hard to point to a better equipped candidate in this years phenomenal class.  Boykin showed he was much more than a one trick pony last season by being a dual threat and even seeing involvement in various receiving packages.  Boykin passed for 3901 yards in a pass happy Big 12 Conference last season, but it will be crucial for him to improve upon those numbers if he hopes to take home the hardware this year.  The Horned Frogs will most likely be a top four team when the season begins and the success of the team hinges largely on Boykin’s production.  I expect for Boykin to turn the corner and continue to shred defenses with precision and superior execution. If he follows that blueprint, no one will stand in his path to claim the prize.

  1. J.T. Barrett 25/1 or Cardale Jones 16/1 QBs Ohio State

Whoever Urban Meyer chooses to take the reigns at QB this season will become a Top 5 pick to receive the award.  Both QB’s have proven themselves capable of keeping defenses honest with their running and passing abilities. Barrett started the first 12 games this past season, setting the school record for passing touchdowns in a season (34) until succumbing to a broken ankle against the Buckeye’s arch rival Michigan.  The Buckeyes then moved to their third string quarterback, Cardale Jones who led Ohio State on an illustrious title run. This dynamic Coach Meyer has is nothing short of impressive.  Barrett has proven himself to be a very accurate passer, while completing 65% of his throws.   Jones provides a different facet to the Buckeyes “juggernaut” offense with his unprecedented arm strength.    It will be a very tough decision for Coach Meyer, but whoever starts under center will be on a short leash as Ohio State has learned to live by the mantra “next man up”.

  1. Nick Chubb- Sophomore RB, Georgia 8/1

There was a silver lining after all for the Bulldogs when star tailback Todd Gurley injured his ACL early in the season.   Chubb has seen the bulk of the carries for the team and what he accomplished was nothing short of impressive.  Chubb rushed for over 1500 yards at an astonishing 7.1 yards per carry.  He also showed his versatility as a pass catcher out of the backfield amassing 213 receiving yards.  He has proven his a slippery and elusive back who, once he finds a seam is able to exploit the weakness with his great acceleration and explosiveness. The question remains, can he outperform Ezekiel Elliot while playing in a defensive minded SEC conference.  The road for Chubb to win the prize will be one of the most challenging, as he is still developing as a play-maker for the Bulldog offense.   Chubb definitely has the skill set to dazzle the voters, but perhaps the field this year is too daunting for the budding tailback.

  1. Connor Cook- Senior QB, Michigan State 20/1

Cook may have already cemented himself as one of the greatest Spartan quarterbacks in school history, a school which is not typically mentioned for their prowess on the gridiron.  However, since the Mark Dantonio regime has been in charge, the Spartans have become a perennial frontrunner within the Big Ten and a Rose Bowl victory in 2014 adds to another notch in his belt.  Cook is a prototype quarterback, 6’4” who possesses great poise in the pocket and is able to make strong accurate passes downfield.   Cook has had an impressive array of receivers over the course of his tenure,  including All-Conference wide out, Tony Lippett.  While his completion percentage over the past two seasons has been sub-60%, Cook has been able to improve drastically in the yardage category throwing for just over 3200 yards this past season ( a 500 yard improvement from the 2013 campaign).  He is responsible with the football and rarely turns it over, last year throwing a 3 to 1 ratio of touchdowns to interceptions (24 TDs, 8 INTs).  He is slated to be a high level draft pick who features tremendous upside and should be a joy to watch again this year.

It will surely be an interesting year in College Football, with no shortage of star-studded talent once again gracing the gridiron. All we can do now is wait until September rolls around and watch the magic unfold before our eyes.

-Quentin Ison

(Note: All stats acquired via ESPN.com gambling odds are from Bovada)