Big Ten notes: Ohio State's 'dangerous' offense poses problem for Penn State

Angelique S. Chengelis
The Detroit News
Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins

With Ohio State coming to Happy Valley, having any concerns about the defense probably isn’t ideal for Penn State coaches.

Both teams are unbeaten heading into the primetime game at Penn State, where "College GameDay" will broadcast Saturday.

Ohio State and Penn State have potent offenses. Penn State leads the Big Ten in scoring averaging at 55.5 points and OSU is right behind at 55.4. The Buckeyes lead the conference in total offense, averaging 599 yards a game and Penn State is No. 2 at 514.5 yards.

Penn State has scored 63 points in each of its last two games, including a 63-24 victory at Illinois this past weekend. And while quarterback Trace McSorley is a strong leader and consistent, the biggest factor in the upcoming game just may be Ohio State quarterback Dwayne Haskins.

Haskins leads the Big Ten averaging 298.5 yards passing. Against Tulane, who entered Saturday's game with a defense ranked 102nd against the pass, he had a field day and threw for 304 yards and five touchdowns. So far this season, Haskins has 16 touchdowns and one interception.

More: Saturday's Big Ten: Purdue tops No. 23 Boston College for first win

“I just want to show how dangerous the offense is, and with me at the helm, a lot of plays can be made,” Haskins said told the Columbus Dispatch after thumping Tulane.

This is probably not what the Penn State defensive coaches want to hear. Through four games, the Nittany Lions are still seeking a defensive leader and identity.

“I don’t think we’re in a situation where we have 11 guys that we know on defense right now, especially at the linebacker position,” Penn State coach James Franklin told the Centre Daily Times after beating Illinois on Friday.

“We have starters, and we have guys we’re rotating in, but I don’t know if anybody’s separated themselves from the pack. And I think that’s probably some our challenges there. Having a guy who you know is running the defense and can be an eraser for you in terms of making plays, we’re not there yet.”

Paying homage

Maryland is wearing decals honoring the memory of teammate Jordan McNair, who died in June after suffering a heatstroke. The Terps also wore a decal on Saturday for their Big Ten opener against Minnesota to honor Gophers lineman Nick Connelly, who died last week.

Connelly passed away four months after he was diagnosed with a rare form of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma.

“Obviously our thoughts are with their football team,” Maryland interim coach and offensive coordinator Matt Canada said, according to the Baltimore Sun. “They’re going through a loss and we know as well as anybody how hard that can be. Our thoughts are with their football team and football family for the loss they’re going through. They played very hard just like we knew they would.”

Minnesota coach P.J. Fleck said after the game his players were emotional following the 42-13 loss because they did not win for Connelly.

“This is a young man who is best friends with most of the guys on this team,” Fleck told the Sun. “A lot of our guys never really had a chance to really say goodbye and that’s really difficult for young people, but it’s training young people how to respond from adversity.

“He was a tremendous young man, individual, influenced a lot of people on this football team, even the kids who did not know him. The freshmen heard stories all week about him. … We had a lot of kids handling it in a really tough way.”

Title-building comeback

It appeared Wisconsin’s streak of four consecutive wins at Iowa was going to end. And then Badgers quarterback Alex Hornibrook orchestrated an 88-yard touchdown drive in the final minutes.

Hornibrook connected on a 17-yard touchdown pass to A.J. Taylor with 55 seconds left. Then with 38 seconds remaining, linebacker T.J. Edwards recorded an interception and fullback Alec Ingold promptly scored from 33 yards out to seal a 28-17 victory in an important West Division game.

“I think (Saturday) was a great learning experience, not only for the team but for the young guys especially," Wisconsin senior safety D'Cota Dixon told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. "Just learning how to fight through adversity, learning how to play when things aren’t going your way. 

"I think that says a lot about Horni, about his maturity level. I know he gets criticized sometimes by fans…But if it wasn’t for him and our offensive line driving it, we wouldn’t have won the game. They won that game for us. We’ve got to be better on defense.”

Twitter @chengelis