The Ohio State Buckeyes released images of the alternate uniforms they will wear Saturday against Penn State on Monday. They are — in a word — gray. That’s the color that will rule the day at Ohio Stadium.
The numbers are black. The Nike swoosh is black. The pants are also black. But the gray uniform tops are what stand out. Scarlet Buckeye stickers on the helmet add a dash of color, as do the Lebron James cleats.
Of course, the No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0) will have to do more than change their look to beat No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0). They need to play their best game of the season. The Nittany Lions have proven their 24-21 victory over Ohio State last season and their run to the Big Ten championship were no flukes.
“This is one of the top offenses in America,” Ohio State coach Urban Meyer said Monday. “What makes it so good is, first of all, you can run that offense with bad players — so very good players and a very good scheme that puts the defense in a lot of stress.”
The star of the offense is junior running back Saquon Barkley, who ran 69 yards for a touchdown on the second play of the game Saturday in a 42-13 victory against Michigan.
Barkely gained 194 yards on 26 carries two seasons ago in a 38-10 loss in Columbus. Last season, he gained 99 yards on 12 carries against the Buckeyes in State College, Pa. He has 3,329 career rushing yards, leaving him 604 yards from breaking Penn State’s all-time record. He also has 80 career receptions for 1,011 yards.
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“He’s the best all-purpose guy we’ve probably faced in maybe my career,” Meyer said. “He’s obviously a great running back. But they do a good job using him and creating matchup issues.”
Meyer compared Barkley to one of his stars at Florida, Percy Harvin. Barkley can take a pounding better, however, Meyer said. Barkley ranks third in the Big Ten with 108.1 rushing yards per game, fifth in receptions with 32 and third in kickoff return yardage (30.3 per return). He leads the conference with 12 touchdowns (eight rushing, three receiving and one return).
Ohio State defensive end Sam Hubbard looks forward to the challenge of stopping Barkley. The last time the Buckeyes faced a running back contending for the Heisman Trophy, he said, was 2014 when they played Wisconsin’s Melvin Gordon in the Big Ten championship game.
Defensive line coach Larry Johnson, a former assistant coach at Penn State, will have his group extra motivated for this game, Hubbard said.
“He takes personal pride in teams coming in here and (not) running the ball,” Hubbard said. “That’s something he’s been preaching. We’ve got a big challenge. (Barkley’s) a special player. He makes his offensive line look great, finding any holes, making opportunities where there are none. The challenge is to swarm to him. He runs through arm tackles very easily. If we stay fundamentally sound in our gaps and don’t try to make big plays and make him come to us, once someone gets a hand on him, the rest of the bullets come flying. It’s going to take a group effort. There’s not going to be one guy who’s going to stop him.”