The storylines are plentiful heading into Saturday’s “Massive Midday Saturday” showdown between Massive Ten East rivals Penn State and Ohio State.
Can the No. 7 Nittany Lions finish years of disappointment and at last show they are a really elite workforce able to reaching the Faculty Soccer Playoff?
Can Drew Allar information his workforce to victory on the large stage in Columbus, the place Penn State hasn’t gained since 2011?
Can the No. 3 Buckeyes present that they’ve overcome their woes on the offensive line, to not point out a bunch of accidents, and present the constant dominance we’re used to seeing from Ryan Day’s program?
And may Marvin Harrison Jr. dominate one of the best protection he is confronted this season?
“I really feel actually good in regards to the workforce,” Allar stated this week. “I feel we have accomplished a fantastic job of bettering our course of every week and simply specializing in ourselves and correcting the errors we have made thus far. We have simply bought to maintain constructing on that.”
FOX Sports activities school soccer consultants Michael Cohen, RJ Younger, Bryan Fischer and Laken Litman share what they will be searching for on this recreation, plus a bunch of different nice Week 8 matchups on Saturday.
No. 7 Penn State at No. 3 Ohio State (Midday ET on FOX and the FOX Sports activities app)
Laken Litman: This can be a enormous alternative for James Franklin and Penn State to take management of the Massive Ten East.
Ohio State has gained six straight and 9 of the final 10. Final yr, the Buckeyes led 16-14 heading into the fourth quarter. The 2 groups mixed to attain 45 factors in these ultimate moments and OSU got here out on prime due to a profession efficiency from defensive finish JT Tuimoloau, who had a strip sack and an interception returned for a landing to assist his workforce clinch a 44-31 win.
This time, although, Penn State is arguably the extra proficient workforce. It has the nation’s top-ranked protection — a unit that’s limiting opponents to 193.7 whole yards per recreation, has allowed simply 5 speeding touchdowns and is averaging 4.5 sacks per recreation. This week Ryan Day described Penn State’s edge rushers Adisa Isaac and Chop Robinson as “twitchy, very fast” and “NFL gamers for positive.”
Each groups have first-starting quarterbacks — Ohio State has Kyle McCord who’s from Philadelphia, and Penn State has Allar, who’s from Medina, Ohio (simply outdoors of Cleveland). McCord could also be extra battle-tested (game-winning drive vs. Notre Dame), however he could possibly be with out a few of his prime playmakers because the Buckeyes are coping with fairly a couple of high-profile accidents. The IR listing at the moment consists of star receiver Emeka Egbuka, in addition to operating backs TreVeyon Henderson, Miyan Williams and Chip Trayanum. Day stated earlier this week that he is hopeful these gamers will return for Saturday.
Whereas this matchup’s historical past has favored the Buckeyes, Saturday could possibly be the Nittany Lions’ time. They’ve the precise items in place and face a banged-up opponent. Can Penn State take benefit and win an in depth recreation?
Michael Cohen: Probably the most fascinating storylines in what could possibly be the most important recreation of the faculty soccer season to date is the super quantity of strain on each head coaches — albeit for considerably totally different causes given the latest historical past of their respective applications.
For Franklin, who’s navigating his tenth season with the Nittany Lions, this week’s recreation is all in regards to the likelihood to lastly break via, to show that the Massive Ten is dominated by a triumvirate fairly than the proverbial diarchy of Ohio State and Michigan. After guiding Penn State to an sudden Massive Ten Championship in 2016, Franklin struggled to parlay his success into something greater than the form of good, strong outcomes that earned him a number of contract extensions however left his workforce a tier under its aforementioned rivals. Franklin is tied with Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz for essentially the most wins with no Faculty Soccer Playoff look — 84 — for the reason that format was launched in 2014. He owns a 3-15 file towards top-10 opponents at Penn State. However that is essentially the most proficient workforce Franklin has ever assembled, so if not now, then when?
For Day, who’s midway via Yr 5 at Ohio State, Saturday’s showdown with Penn State is about dwelling as much as the extremely lofty expectations of a fan base that grumbles about something lower than an undefeated season. Day is 51-6 since taking on the Buckeyes for a successful proportion of .895, one of the best amongst energetic head coaches. He is gained 49 of fifty video games outdoors the Faculty Soccer Playoff and towards opponents not named Michigan. However there is a reasonable likelihood that Ohio State might fall to the Wolverines once more this season for a 3rd consecutive defeat within the rivalry recreation, which hasn’t occurred since 1995-97, and frustration amongst followers would method toxicity. Think about the discourse if Day loses to Penn State this weekend and enters the common season finale with an already blemished file. He wants a constructive end result on Saturday.
RJ Younger: As I wrote Wednesday, the Buckeyes should stem that PSU offensive line and cease Nick Singleton or Kaytron Allen from gashing you for 2 payments like Michigan did proper there on the home the place mama keep? They’re combining for 121 a recreation on the bottom and 9 rush TDs.
Does Penn State have a person who can buckle Marvin Harrison Jr. into the kid’s seat? The Martian is on tempo to catch 60 for 1,200 with 10 TDs. Like OU-Texas, and Oregon-Washington, it is a CFP play-in recreation: Whoever wins this one is the match for Michigan and Massive Ten supremacy — and can be a top-5 workforce.
Ohio State vs. Penn State: Can Nittany Lions pull off the upset?
Bryan Fischer: This appears like an enormous midseason recreation wherein you actually do not know how good both workforce is. Ohio State has been examined in that highway victory over Notre Dame, however the eye take a look at confirms this is not the Buckeyes workforce we’re used to seeing pile up the turnovers on protection and gaining massive chunk performs on offense. Penn State thumped Iowa however in any other case has had a simple path.
Provided that this contest options the 2 greatest defenses when it comes to yards per play allowed (PSU: 3.4 YPP; OSU 4.0 YPP), it appears like a recreation that can be gained or misplaced up entrance alongside the offensive line and, naturally, at quarterback between a pair of nonetheless inexperienced signal-callers. The Nittany Lions have a future first-rounder at left deal with and a veteran group up entrance however actually have not taken on anyone of the caliber of Tuimoloau and Jack Sawyer. Simply how a lot strain will that latter pair have the ability to get on Allar? If the road can provide the QB a while, he is a precision passer on quick and intermediate routes and will help Penn State transfer the ball down the sector.
I am much less satisfied the Buckeyes are able to holding as much as the relentless strain within the trenches, as a result of that is been one massive space the place the workforce has struggled. The operating again group is a revolving door proper now, and even when Henderson and Williams wind up taking part in, it is nonetheless going to be in McCord’s fingers. He is performed higher the previous few video games (65% passing, 11 TDs, 0 INTs) nevertheless it appears like he is nonetheless a tick sluggish in processing the place to go together with the ball if Harrison is not fully open — one thing that may result in turnovers or sacks towards a PSU protection like this.
Both method, this has all of the makings of a contest the place momentum flips three totally different instances every quarter. Thrown within the unbelievable ambiance on the Horseshoe and the primary of those Massive Ten East round-robin video games on Massive Midday Saturday goes to be unbelievable.
What’s the greater image for Penn State, Ohio State within the Massive Ten?
No. 17 Tennessee at No. 11 Alabama (3:30 p.m. ET)
Michael: Followers will keep in mind final yr’s assembly between sixth-ranked Tennessee and third-ranked Alabama as arguably essentially the most thrilling recreation of the faculty soccer season: a 52-49 triumph by the Volunteers that snapped a 15-game dropping streak to the Crimson Tide courtesy of a 40-yard discipline objective as time expired. Quarterback Hendon Hooker, an eventual third-round decide by the Detroit Lions, threw for 385 yards and 5 touchdowns. Broad receiver Jalin Hyatt, an eventual third-round decide by the New York Giants, hauled in six passes for 207 yards and a school-record 5 touchdowns.
With the 2 greatest weapons from his passing assault gone to the NFL, head coach Josh Heupel has reworked the Volunteers into one of many nation’s greatest speeding groups. Tennessee ranks sixth nationally with 231.3 yards per recreation and sits 14th in stuff charge, which measures how typically run performs are stopped at, or behind, the road of scrimmage. But it surely’s a method that will not be simply replicated towards an Alabama run protection that has surged into gear. Since permitting 177 yards to South Florida the Crimson Tide have held three of their final 4 opponents to 2.8 YPC or fewer in wins over Ole Miss (56 speeding yards, 1.9 YPC); Texas A&M (67 speeding yards, 1.9 YPC) and Arkansas (100 speeding yards, 2.8 YPC).
RJ: The final time these two performed, the Volunteers followers took the goalposts dwelling. The final time Tennessee beat Bama in back-to-back years, Matt Leinart was quarterback at USC.
Ain’t no Hooker or Hyatt. There’s solely a Joe (Milton) and a Squirrel (White). And Milton higher be on his horse come Saturday as a result of Dallas Turner is a holy terror off that edge. He leads the SEC in sacks with seven in six video games.
Ain’t no Bryce Younger both — simply one other Jalen (Milroe) at QB who’s succesful and rising in confidence. Bama ain’t misplaced to the identical opponent in back-to-back seasons since 2015 — Ole Miss — and have reeled off 5 straight since their final loss.
Bryan: Nothing just like the Third Saturday in October, particularly when it appears like we’re venturing right into a zone the place either side is getting into a little bit of a sliding doorways second.
The Vols had a memorable upset final yr in Neyland that felt prefer it vanquished a couple of demons, however this yr’s workforce is nowhere near being pretty much as good as final yr’s unit, particularly offensively. The Tide know what sort of workforce they’ve and are leaning into that id, which goes to be troublesome to beat.
Laken: Alabama was rapidly dismissed as a nationwide title contender following its Week 2 loss to Texas. The criticisms grew louder every week later after an uninspiring shut win over South Florida. Since then, the Crimson Tide has gained each recreation — shut calls and all — and controls their Faculty Soccer Playoff future with only one loss.
That is as a result of the protection is taking part in extra like Bama defenses of the previous, and despite the fact that Milroe remains to be a bit shaky, he is rising into the position.
Who will seize management within the SEC, ACC?
No. 8 Texas at Houston (4 p.m. ET on FOX)
RJ: OK, we have now to speak about UH and UT. Pack a lunch.
Texas has refused to schedule Houston since their three-game sequence from 2000 to 2002. Y’all may not know that Houston has solely performed Texas out of convention five times since they first performed in 1953. That is as a result of the second time Houston performed Texas in 1968 all hell broke unfastened after the sport led to a 20-20 tie. That Houston workforce additionally featured Elmo Wright, a Black participant from Sweeney, Texas who Royal knew about however refused to register 1966. He turned out to be fairly good.
Texas is the final program to win a nationwide title with an all-white workforce. That was 1969. Figuring out that truth, you’ll be able to think about the one factor Black in regards to the 1968 Texas Longhorns was their cleats. No. 11 Houston got here inside inches of whooping the No. 1-ranked Longhorns within the recreation. And Royal by no means scheduled Houston once more.
Houston joined the Southwest Convention in soccer in 1976. Darrell Okay Royal stop teaching Texas on the finish of the 1976 season.
UT boosters keep on Texas message boards like ticks on a chicken canine, and my goodness would I like nothing greater than to see what lunacy they’d publish behind a pseudonym in the event that they misplaced to Houston.
“The Longhorns didn’t put a [B]lack participant on the varsity workforce till 1970,” Asher Worth wrote in his e book “Earl Campbell: Yards After Contact.”
” In that lengthy, seven-year interval between the regents’ nod to Royal to carry on black athletes and the day he lastly did — a biblical span, equal to the size of time Joseph sequestered meals within the nice warehouses of Egypt forward of the seven years of famine — the beloved coach had, in some quarters, earned a fame as a racist holdout. How a lot of that lengthy stretch — a stretch that included the slighting of Elmo Wright, the speedy huge receiver from Sweeny whom Ken Dabbs dropped at Royal’s consideration in 1966 — might be blamed on Royal and the way a lot on the regents, boosters, and college officers stays an open query, even to the individuals who performed for him.”
Since then, Houston produced the primary Black Heisman winner at quarterback in Andre Ware, and Cougar followers search for any and each alternative to not simply root towards Texas however with a measure of discretion reserved for less than essentially the most hated rivals.
I count on this recreation to be no totally different.
Laken: Texas turned the ball over 3 times in a 34-30 loss to Oklahoma two weeks in the past, and nonetheless had an opportunity to win. After the sport, coach Steve Sarkisian stated he hoped that defeat would sit along with his gamers fairly than forgetting it 24 hours later.
“I hope we form of carry this one with us for slightly bit and I hope it fuels us to be even higher than we might be transferring ahead,” Sarkisian stated.
After a bye week, the Longhorns are again in motion on the highway at Houston, which is eleventh within the convention standings. This is a wonderful alternative for Texas to get right into a groove and regain any confidence which may have been misplaced after the Crimson River Rivalry. The workforce is aware of its season objectives are nonetheless intact — successful the Massive 12, making it to the Faculty Soccer Playoff, and successful a nationwide championship are nonetheless on the desk so long as the Horns win out.
Bryan: When the 2023 schedule was introduced, I assure you that this was the sport each Houston participant, coach, administrator, booster and fan circled on the calendar. Whereas Texas could have a look at the Cougars as that pesky faculty down the highway, there’s some actual resentment at UH after being left behind when the SWC broke up and the way Texas roughly delayed their entry into the Massive 12 till the most recent spherical of convention realignment. Gamers who grew up carrying burnt orange hoping for that supply that by no means materialized have doubtless been awaiting a measure of revenge for years.
What sort of affect will which have on this one? Properly, count on most effort out of the house workforce as a result of it might completely make this system’s day to ship UT out with a loss — and all however assure Dana Holgorsen returns in 2024.
Nonetheless, this is among the greatest offenses within the nation towards the Massive 12’s worst protection so for all the hassle Houston is liable to offer, this could possibly be a pleasant “get proper” spot for Steve Sarkisian’s crew as they rebound from Crimson River.
Michael: This recreation ought to provide Texas’ offense the possibility to proper the ship following a turnover-filled efficiency in a crushing loss to Oklahoma. Quarterback Quinn Ewers solely threw six incompletions towards the Sooners, however two of them have been intercepted in his first multi-interception recreation of the season and simply his second since becoming a member of the Longhorns. He additionally turned the ball over a 3rd time on a misplaced fumble. Following an open date, this week’s problem ought to be far simpler towards a Houston protection ranked final in factors allowed at 31.3 factors per recreation.
No. 16 Duke at No. 4 Florida State (7:30 p.m. ET)
Laken: Florida State is certainly one of simply 9 undefeated groups left within the prime 25 on the halfway level of the season. May that run come to an finish this weekend?
Duke is one of the best protection the Seminoles have confronted thus far — the Blue Devils are holding opponents to 9.7 factors per recreation (fourth-best within the nation) — and can be a great take a look at for an offense led by Heisman hopeful Jordan Travis.
As for the Blue Devils, coach Mike Elko stated this week that quarterback Riley Leonard is “day-to-day” however might return for the ACC showdown. Leonard remains to be recovering from a excessive ankle sprain he sustained towards Notre Dame a couple of weeks in the past. Freshman Henry Belin IV accomplished 4 of 12 passes for 107 yards with two touchdowns and an interception in final week’s 24-3 win over NC State.
Bryan: The plain factor about this recreation is whether or not Leonard finally ends up taking part in. He seems on monitor to play, which might be an enormous enhance for the Blue Devils, because the offense has been a tough watch for big stretches this yr. Nonetheless, that is the top-scoring protection within the ACC taking over the ‘Noles prime scoring offense, and it ought to be an actual mile marker on whether or not Duke has a practical likelihood on the ACC title recreation.
Michael: That is arguably one of the essential video games of the weekend because it pertains to the Faculty Soccer Playoff. At 5-1 total and with a dominant victory over Clemson already on its resume, Duke is perhaps one of the best workforce Florida State performs between now and the tip of the common season, particularly if Leonard returns. Elko, a 46-year-old rising star within the occupation, has constructed the Blue Devils right into a top-20 protection, a top-20 speeding assault and a workforce that is tied for twentieth in fewest penalties per recreation. But when Florida State can come away from Saturday’s recreation with a win, there’s not a lot standing between head coach Mike Norvell’s workforce and an undefeated common season.
RJ: For Duke, the ranked groups left on its schedule are No. 21 Louisville subsequent week and No. 10 North Carolina on Nov. 11 at Carolina. You’d like to have talisman Leonard again, as a result of Henry Belin ain’t it. He accomplished simply 4 of 12 with two TDs and a decide towards NC State. That form of play will get your grits cooked.
However the Duke D is lengthy and robust. It is certainly one of simply 4 groups permitting 10 factors or fewer. The others? Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State. Watch Tre Freeman at linebacker for the Blue Devils — a redshirt sophomore who had 15 tackles and a decide towards NC State.
For FSU, that is the one recreation on the schedule left that contains a ranked opponent. And it is at Doak Campbell. Make an announcement.
No. 2 Michigan at Michigan State (7:30 p.m. ET)
Michael: Although their stadiums are separated by simply 64 miles, Michigan and Michigan State are two applications that could not be farther aside. Sport after recreation, week after week, the maize-and-blue juggernaut assembled by head coach Jim Harbaugh is tearing opponents aside with ruthless precision. His Wolverines have clear identities on either side of the ball and a training workers that excels at extracting expertise from a roster that features simply two former five-star recruits. Teaching and participant improvement are the explanations Michigan has gained 32 of its final 35 video games during the last three seasons.
It is an unbelievable distinction from what’s occurring in East Lansing, the place nothing in regards to the Michigan State program is secure solely two years faraway from an 11-2 marketing campaign in 2021. The Spartans are with no everlasting head coach following the unceremonious firing of Mel Tucker for trigger amid an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct; they’ve had 4 decommitments from their 2024 recruiting class within the final month; and final weekend they blew a 24-6 fourth-quarter lead over Rutgers that sunk their file to 2-4 total and 0-3 within the Massive Ten. Along with this week’s rivalry recreation towards No. 2 Michigan, the Spartans nonetheless have extra video games towards Penn State and Ohio State later this season. It will get uglier earlier than it will get higher.
RJ: The Spartans have gone 0-4 since suspending Tucker on Sept. 10. They’ve misplaced every of these video games by a median of 17 factors. And a type of is to Rutgers(!) (quietly 5-2 Rutgers!) after blowing an 18-point fourth-quarter lead.
For Michigan, hold dominating. Put up 50 once more. Do not let Michigan State inside your 10. I do not need to see this Michigan State workforce rating in any respect. I need to see perfection. Are you able to be good?
Laken: For all of the discuss Michigan having performed a mushy schedule thus far, it may’t afford to miss in-state rival Michigan State. MSU has gained two of the final three on this sequence — and who can neglect final yr’s scuffle within the tunnel on the Massive Home?
The Wolverines do not play a ranked workforce till Penn State on Nov. 11 and sure will not face any adversity till then. The nice factor for Michigan followers is that this workforce has dominated every opponent it has performed, has sturdy identities on either side of the ball, and quarterback J.J. McCarthy has been environment friendly and has clearly cemented himself because the chief of the workforce.
Bryan: This has been a surprisingly nasty rivalry the previous decade-plus, highlighted by final yr’s tunnel incident. It is being performed at evening in East Lansing so if there was one recreation the followers and gamers can be up for on the Spartans aspect, it is this one. It is uncertain MSU has anyplace near the form of personnel that may problem the aptly named Boa Constrictor that the Wolverines have turn into, nevertheless. This has all of the makings of 1 that will get out of hand early.
LaDarius Henderson on what it is like taking part in for Jim Harbaugh
No. 14 Utah at No. 18 USC (8 p.m. ET on FOX)
Bryan: That is a type of uncommon video games the place power meets power on either side and weak spot has an opportunity to use a fellow weak spot. The primary half of the yr actually hasn’t gone as scripted for both workforce, which takes some juice from this rematch of the Pac-12 title recreation.
Pretty much as good because the Utes protection has been, they will be going up towards a motivated Trojans offense and a quarterback in Caleb Williams who shouldn’t be solely out for slightly revenge after final yr — however is someone who has nowhere to go however up after the worst recreation of his profession. The USC offensive line is a regarding mismatch towards the likes of DE Jonah Elliss so it could possibly be a heavy dose of Marshawn Lloyd and the short passing recreation out of Lincoln Riley. Kyle Whittingham’s offense is aware of it may’t depend on safeties being their main rusher in a top-25 matchup like this, so it will likely be attention-grabbing to see in the event that they attempt to script a couple of extra massive performs down the sector to open issues up and make this extra of a back-and-forth recreation.
Laken: For USC, there isn’t any relaxation for the weary. After turning the ball over 5 instances — together with three interceptions from Williams — in a loss to Notre Dame final week, the Trojans host Utah in a rematch of the 2022 Pac 12 Championship recreation.
USC nonetheless has 4 ranked groups left on the schedule — Utah, Washington, Oregon and UCLA. Whereas Williams has been doing every part in his energy to maintain the Trojans within the hunt, the protection has been doing precisely the alternative. And for that purpose, it isn’t loopy to suppose this workforce might lose all of these aforementioned video games. Defensive coordinator Alex Grinch has been a preferred storyline this season due to how unhealthy his unit has been taking part in. The Trojans’ protection, ranked ninety fifth within the nation, is giving up practically 400 yards per recreation and permitting opponents to realize 5.7 yards per play.
Will USC get revenge towards Utah?
Michael: When these groups met within the Pac-12 Championship Sport,’ a relentless Utah protection trashed the Trojans’ offensive line to the tune of 37 quarterback pressures, seven sacks and three extra quarterback hits, the totality of which injured Williams and compromised his mobility in a blowout that stored USC from the Faculty Soccer Playoff.
Saturday’s recreation would possibly inform the same story given the continued breaches of Williams’ offensive line. A yr in the past, Williams was pressured 187 instances in 14 video games for a median of 13.4 pressures per recreation, based on Professional Soccer Focus. This yr, Williams has been pressured 77 instances via USC’s first seven video games — which is the seventh-highest whole amongst Energy 5 quarterbacks. And whereas the general strain charge is barely decrease than it was in 2022, issues are heading within the mistaken course. Williams was below siege on 20 of his 45 dropbacks throughout final week’s loss to Notre Dame, based on Professional Soccer Focus, and now he faces a Utah workforce tied for seventh nationally with 22 sacks this season. He higher have his chin strap buckled.
RJ: This has turn into a standard ass-whooping recreation for USC: The Trojans misplaced this one 42-26 in 2021, and misplaced it twice extra in 2022.
And in case you thought that Notre Dame protection was powerful, simply wait till Morgan Scalley’s tribe storms the Coliseum. The Utes are gonna present as much as Troy extra pissed than Achilles after the demise of Patroclus, and you might be their Hector.
But when anyone bought it like Aphrodite’s favourite son it is the CW, No. 13 in your dial subsequent to the fourth recreation on ACC slate.
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Michael Cohen covers school soccer and basketball for FOX Sports activities with an emphasis on the Massive Ten. Comply with him on Twitter at @Michael_Cohen13.
Laken Litman covers school soccer, school basketball and soccer for FOX Sports activities. She beforehand wrote for Sports activities Illustrated, USA As we speak and The Indianapolis Star. She is the creator of “Robust Like a Girl,” printed in spring 2022 to mark the fiftieth anniversary of Title IX. Comply with her on Twitter @LakenLitman.
RJ Younger is a nationwide school soccer author and analyst for FOX Sports activities and the host of the podcast “The Number One College Football Show.” Comply with him on Twitter at @RJ_Young and subscribe to “The RJ Young Show” on YouTube.
Bryan Fischer is a school soccer author for FOX Sports activities. He has been protecting school athletics for practically 20 years at shops comparable to NBC Sports activities, CBS Sports activities, Yahoo! Sports activities and NFL.com amongst others. Comply with him on Twitter at @BryanDFischer.
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