COLUMBUS, OH – Chase Young, who returns from a two-game suspension on Saturday, took to social media this week with what could be an ominous warning for No. 9 Penn State: “Chip on my shoulder only gotten bigger.”
The meaning is clear.
No. 2 Ohio State’s star defensive end and team captain was sidelined by the NCAA for the last two games for breaking the rules by accepting a personal loan from someone he described as a family friend. He wasn’t made available to reporters this week, but his coaches and teammates say he’s burning to get back.
“We know,” linebacker Pete Werner said. “He’s just walking a little differently. He’s excited. We are, too.”
Before being suspended for Ohio State blowouts of Maryland and Rutgers, Young had amassed 13½ sacks and was being talked about as a Heisman Trophy candidate after a four-sack performance in a 38-7 win over Wisconsin.
“I hope he’s a little ramped up on that first pass rush,” co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley said.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford calls Young a “game wrecker” and Hafley explained why as the two teams prepare for a showdown with both Big Ten title and playoff implications.
“He changes what they have to do. They have to account for him,” he said of the Nittany Lions. “They may have to slide to him, they may have to put a tight end on him. They might have to keep a back in on him. They have to find a way so he’s not one-on-one. They might have to get rid of the ball quicker. They might not be able to sit in the pocket and throw those deep developing routes that give you problems.”
Ohio State (10-0, 7-0 Big Ten, CFP No. 2) brings the nation’s best defense to the matchup with the Nittany Lions (9-1, 6-1, No. 8 CFP) The Buckeyes are second in the nation with 42 sacks. Young’s 13½ are second in the country.
The Buckeyes can wrap up the Big Ten East Division with a win. If Penn State, an 18-point underdog, can pull off the upset, it can win the division by defeating Rutgers next week. The Buckeyes would consider a loss devastating to what they see as a special season, and it could shake up the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. Ohio State expects its biggest tests of the season this week against the Nittany Lions and next week against No. 12 Michigan.
WR KJ Hamler is one of Penn State's biggest weapons, but he's been dinged up all season with various undisclosed issues. He left last week's game in the first half and didn't return. He saw limited action in practice this week, and coach James Franklin hasn’t addressed his status. Franklin said RB Noah Cain is close to being able to play and will be a game-time decision.
THE WORLD WE LIVE IN
Clifford said he deleted his social media accounts after getting death threats following Penn State’s first loss of the season, against Minnesota Nov. 9.
“It’s kind of sad to say, but you know how some fans get a little crazy,” he said. “I was kind of sick and tired of getting death threats and some pretty explicit and pretty tough-to-read messages.”
He has since returned to the grid, reactivating a couple of his accounts.
“You learn how to deal with certain things and how certain people are going to react because it’s a very passionate game with a lot of passionate people,” he said.
Franklin had trouble processing it.
“I don't know where we are as a society,” he said. “It's concerning. We're 9-1, we're ranked in the top 10, I think. We've had a pretty good year based on most people's standards, and sometimes you go on social media and you wouldn't feel that way."
ESPN’s “College GameDay” show is in town, the 46th time the show has originated from Columbus. Fox, which is broadcasting the game, starts its “Big Noon Kickoff” show featuring former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer as an analyst. The Big Ten network’s “BTN Tailgate” is also lined up. The shows will be staged at various locations inside and outside Ohio Stadium.
Follow Mitch Stacy at http://twitter.com/mitchstacy