Elite defenses clash as No. 7 Penn State visits No. 3 Ohio State

Forget scouting reports. The outcome of Saturday’s game between No. 7 Penn State and No. 3 Ohio State may be impacted by the availability report released by the host Buckeyes hours before the Big Ten battle in Columbus.

Attention will focus on the injury status of three running backs and standout receiver Emeka Egbuka for the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0) when they try to take down the Nittany Lions (6-0, 3-0) and their defense that ranks in the top five nationally in several categories.

The Buckeyes finished their 41-7 win over Purdue last Saturday without their top three runners — TreVeyon Henderson, Chip Trayanum and Miyan Williams. Also, cornerback Denzel Burke left the game with an injury.

Ohio State coach Ryan Day was tight-lipped when asked Tuesday about his quartet of injured players.

“I’m not going to get into all those guys, but hopefully we’ll have those guys back for Saturday,” Day said.

Henderson has missed the past two games. Williams sat against Purdue, and Trayanum was injured late in the first quarter against the Boilermakers.

Dallan Hayden, who was considered for a redshirt season, came off the bench to rush for 76 of the Buckeyes’ 152 yards, with a long run of 19 and a 1-yard touchdown.

“You do have to get creative,” Day said. “You have to figure out ways to kind of make it work because ultimately nobody cares (about the injuries). You’ve got to figure out a way to get it done.”

Egbuka sat out the Purdue game, and his return would divert some of the focus off Marvin Harrison Jr., who hauled in six throws for 105 yards and a score against Purdue.

“It is another top-10 opponent,” Penn State defensive end Adisa Isaac said. “Obviously we’ve been battling these guys for years and years, so this is a great test for us.”

The Buckeyes will need to be as healthy as possible against a defense that ranks first in the nation in pass defense (121.2 yards per game) and total yards (193.7) and second in points (8.0) and rushing yards allowed (72.5). The Nittany Lions have held opponents under 100 rushing yards in five straight games.

Ohio State is no slouch either on defense and will be a challenge for Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar, a native of Medina, Ohio, who has thrown 12 touchdowns without an interception this season through 181 passes.

The Buckeyes’ pass defense is fourth (154.3) in the nation. The defense also is third in average points allowed (9.7) and seventh in total defense (263.5).

“I feel like we’ve definitely been battle-tested; we’ve played some really good opponents,” Allar said. “Offensively, we’ve gotten better each week, gotten more consistent each week, and we just need to keep building on that. We can’t change our routine based on the opponent.”

With each team still having to play No. 2 Michigan, the winner will have the inside track to the Big Ten East Division and further down the road a spot in the College Football Playoff.

Ohio State has won six straight in the series and 10 of the past 11. Penn State coach James Franklin is 1-8 vs. the Buckeyes and has lost all four games in Ohio Stadium. Penn State has not won in Columbus since 2011.

–Field Level Media