Ahead of Ohio State's biggest game of the season up to this point, the Buckeyes are certainly banged up heading into their home date vs. the Penn State Nittany Lions. It is No. 3 hosting No. 7 in the marquee game on the slate for Saturday. While the winner will emerge as the most formidable challenger to Michigan in the Big Ten, the loser could still conceivably make the playoff this season.
Of course, not having Ohio State at full strength could give the Nittany Lions a better shot at the road upset than expected. It has been mostly a hammer vs. nail rivalry in recent years, with the Buckeyes being the hammer and Penn State being the nail. However, key injuries to the likes of Denzel Burke, Emeka Egbuka and TreVeyon Henderson could have the Buckeyes vulnerable heading into this one.
Cameron Teague of The Athletic reported that Burke and Henderson are listed as out for the Buckeyes. While they look to be down their star corner and one of their better running backs, Egbuka is listed as questionable. If the Buckeyes' No. 2 wide receiver can go, then that would be wonderful for star wideout Marvin Harrison Jr. being able to go off. Even if Egbuka is just a decoy, that is still huge!
Interestingly enough, Pete Thamel relayed what Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day told ESPN. While Henderson had been listed out on the injury report Ohio State sent to the Big Ten, he was deemed a game-time decision for the Buckeyes. Clearly, Ohio State is trying to keep this one close to the vest.
So with Burke definitely out, Egbuka questionable and Henderson a game-time decision, so much is up in the air with the Buckeyes heading into this game. How will these injuries affect them in this one?
Ohio State injury report heading into the critical Penn State game
Burke had been the most unlikely to play. While most of the attention this week had been on the health of Egbuka, he seems like he is more ready to play than even Henderson. Keep in mind that he did not travel to West Lafayette when the Buckeyes played the Purdue Boilermakers last weekend. Ohio State won easily anyway over Ryan Walters' squad, 41-7. The Henderson status is the big one.
With Penn State having dudes at all levels of its defense, it is more important than ever for Ohio State to be able to run the football with conviction. Being able to pound the rock will help the Buckeyes close out the game vs. a feisty Penn State team. Otherwise, the Ohio State offense is going to have to lean on first-year starting quarterback Kyle McCord to move the sticks vs. Manny Diaz's PSU defense.
Ultimately, Ohio State being somewhat short-handed will be not be an excuse if they were to come up short in this one. The Buckeyes may have had the upper hand in this rivalry for the better part of a decade now, but Penn State is certainly on the come-up and ready to show us all what they got. Regardless, this has the potential to be the best game of the weekend. So will it live up to the hype?
Look for Day, McCord and the rest of the Buckeyes to do their part to bring Ohio State another win.