The Battle That May Win the War: The Trenches Will Decide the Outcome of Penn State-Ohio State

By Nick Polak on September 28, 2018 at 10:00 am
Sep 1, 2018; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos (99) sacks Appalachian State Mountaineers quarterback Zac Thomas (12) during the third quarter at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Appalachian State 45-38 in overtime.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We've talked about how Penn State can take advantage of Ohio State, we've talked about how Ohio State can take advantage of Penn State, and we've talked about how these teams are actually quite similar.

All of those things still hold true. If either team is able to win all three of the battles that seem to favor them, that team will likely be in control all night. But there's one matchup where neither team seems to have much of an advantage, and it will be the battle that may have the most say in the outcome of the game- each team's offensive line against each team's defensive line.

Both teams' defensive strengths lie along their defensive line, and it's not particularly close. Both teams have major questions at linebacker where they are each replacing two to three starters, and both teams are experiencing inconsistencies in the secondary (again, partially a function of new starters). Yet along the defensive lines, these teams are capable of creating magic.

He's no Nick Bosa, but Chase Young is a monster in his own right. (Photo: Joe Maiorana-USA TODAY Sports)

It does worth mentioning that the Buckeyes will be without Nick Bosa, who is possibly the best player in college football, but they have plenty of talent to fill in for him. They play at such a high level already that they're still one of the most elite units in the country, even without their superstar. With Chase Young, Dre'Mont Jones, Jonathan Cooper, Jashon Cornell, Tyreke Smith, Tyler Friday, Robert Landers, Davon Hamilton, and others, this is still a fearsome group.

On the Penn State side of things, though their line hasn't been as terrifying as Ohio State's (the Buckeyes's line has been one of the country's best), they've been outstanding in their own right. They've shown the ability to stop the run, the ability to rush the passer, and the ability to affect plays even when they're not making the play. Shareef Miller, Yetur-Gross Matos, Kevin Givens, Robert Windsor, Shaka Toney, P.J. Mustipher, Fred Hansard, Jayson Oweh, and company will be ready to let the wild dogs loose on Saturday night.

On the offensive side, both Penn State's and Ohio State's lines have been good-to-great in spots. Both rank inside the top-11 in opportunity rate (how often your line affords your running back five yards to work with), with the Lions at No. 5, and Ohio State at No. 11. Both also rank in the top-30 in sack rate. These lines don't just get by on numbers, though- they pass the eye test, as well.

There are battles that are going to take place all over the field come Saturday evening. They'll all serve a purpose and will all help to define the winner. But while finding the mismatches in football can be a key to victory, going out there and winning the battle with the other team's best unit is even more vital. These two teams are going to give each other everything they have off the snap. The line that's able to give their quarterback time to throw and the running backs a chance to get up field will likely be the one celebrating at the end of the night.

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