Well, the biggest game of the year for Penn State is finally here. After 10 games, the Nittany Lions find themselves sitting at 9-1 and still have a path to the College Football Playoff. However, that path won't be easy to follow, as the Nittany Lions need to figure out a way to upset Ohio State in order to secure themselves a spot in Indianapolis.
The Buckeyes have run through their schedule this season, dominating every opponent they've faced. Loaded with talent on both sides of the ball, it's tough to find a true weakness on the Ohio State roster.
For that reason, Penn State will need to play a complete, mistake-free game in order to pull off the major upset.
Who are the Nittany Lions that need to step up in this huge Big Ten matchup to help make that happen??
Wide Receiver Jahan Dotson
Dotson has been the second-best wide receiver all season behind KJ Hamler. However, despite still being listed first on the depth chart, Hamler is banged up heading into this week, so Dotson may be in line for an even bigger role in the offense.
A popular breakout pick before the season started, Dotson has been a bit inconsistent. Still, he sits third on the team with 22 receptions for 412 yards and three touchdowns. Dotson's highest value lies in his ability to make big plays downfield. His 18.7 yards per catch are second on the team, and he has become extremely adept in finding ways to make the attention drawn to Hamler work in his favor.
Penn State needs guys not named Hamler or Friermuth to make plays in the passing game this week. Look for the Nittany Lions to do everything they can to get Dotson involved early, particularly down the field on the mid-range passes that he has proven to be deadly with.
Outside Linebacker Micah Parsons
Micah Parsons has certainly lived up to the hype that made him a top recruit in the 2018 class. The sophomore is in the middle of a fantastic season, racking up 75 total tackles, including two sacks. Last week, he recorded seven total tackles against Indiana.
During his recruitment, Parsons de-committed from Penn State and appeared to be headed to Columbus. However, after a recruiting violation was committed during his official visit, Ohio State agreed to stop recruiting him.
Now, Parsons will get his first opportunity to play in the Horseshoe. It's safe to say that he will be fired up have a big showing in front of the hostile crowd. Parsons is easily one of the best linebackers in the nation, proven by the fact that he's a semifinalist for the Butkus Award. If Penn State is going to pull off the upset, Parsons is going to need a big game.
The Buckeyes boast one of, if not the, most powerful running game in the country behind the legs of JK Dobbins, Master Teague, and quarterback Justin Fields. Stopping the run has been a strength for this Penn State team, with a lot of that thanks to Parsons. The defense will need to be at its best to make sure Ohio State can't win this one by keeping the ball on the ground.
Cornerback Marquis Wilson
While it may seem odd to highlight a backup cornerback as a player to watch in an important game, that's exactly the case this week with Wilson. Starter Tariq Castro-Fields got banged up in the Indiana game and there are questions as to exactly how healthy he is heading into this week. He has appeared to be dealing with nagging injuries for several weeks now, to the point that it seems to be visibly impacting his play.
Wilson has been trending upwards in recent weeks and is coming off an impressive showing against the Hoosiers. Seeing some extended time while Castro-Fields was out, Wilson finished with three total tackles and also forced and recovered a fumble.
The Ohio State passing attack, led by quarterback Justin Fields, is no joke, and Penn State has had issues in the secondary, lately. The corners and safeties are going to be extremely busy, meaning that defensive coordinator Brent Pry will need to rotate some guys in and out.
Wilson is a talented player who is already showing signs of his ability to be an excellent cornerback at the collegiate level. He's also still just a freshman. Expect Fields to attack his side of the field when he's in the game. The good news is that if his initial Penn State performances are any indication, Wilson craves and can handle that attention.
Keep an eye on him against the Buckeyes.