A year ago, PJ Mastifer was recovering from knee surgery in State College and watched his Pennsylvania teammates play at Ohio Stadium.

Mustifer wanted to be there with the Nittany Lions, who were struggling against Ohio State and down by three points in the fourth quarter. It was as helpless as he had ever felt.

“I was like, ‘Man, I wish I was there with the guys,'” he said. “Just watching them fly last year at their house was incredible. At the same time, I really wanted to be there and be a part of it “.

Mustifer’s wait will end Saturday at noon (TV-FOX, WEEU-AM/830) when No. 13 Penn State (3-1, 6-1) takes on No. 2 Ohio State (4-0, 7-0). ) at Beaver Stadium.

Like everyone else on the roster, Mustifer is winless against the Buckeyes. The Lions haven’t won the series since their incredible 24-21 victory in 2016 that helped them advance to the Big Ten Championship.

They are not alone. Ohio State is 70-5 against Big Ten opponents since 2014 and 41-4 overall under coach Ryan Day, who took over on a permanent basis in 2019. No conference opponent has beaten the Buckeyes twice in that span. Penn State, a two-touchdown underdog, hopes to be first.

“This team is different,” Mastifer said. “The team we have this year is not the same as last year, or 2020, or 2019, or 2018. It’s a different group of men. We are not very concerned about what happened in the past. We’re just focused on the moment.

“If we go about things this week in practice, do what we need to do and focus on what we need to focus on, then we’ll give ourselves the best opportunity. We just have to control what we can control.”

Ohio State has a dynamic offense that is averaging 49.6 points per game behind quarterback C.J. Stroud, running backs Treveon Henderson and Miyan Williams and wide receivers Marvin Harrison Jr., Emeka Egbuki and Jackson Smith-Njigbo.

Stroud, a leading Heisman Trophy contender, leads the nation in passing efficiency and touchdowns with 28.

“They can have an explosive game at any time,” Mustifer said. “They do a phenomenal job of executing what they want to execute every down. It’s definitely a challenge for the defense because if it’s third and short or third and medium, you don’t know if it’s a run or a pass.

“They have a phenomenal leader among the backs, explosive playmakers on the edge and a great offensive line. They are a great all-around team.”

Defensively, the Buckeyes are second in the nation in total yards allowed (239.9 per game) and fifth in points allowed (14.9) in their first season under coordinator Jim Knowles. Linebacker Tommy Eichenberg is their top tackler with 57.

Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford passed for 613 yards and four touchdowns with two interceptions in three starts against Ohio State. (AP Photo/Barry Rieger)

“They’re extremely aggressive,” Penn State linebacker Sean Clifford said. “They do a very good job of picking tracks. Their front end is very strong, athletic and large. Their linebackers are really good. And their DBs (defensive backs) are as good as any.

“In terms of scheme, they offer a lot of complexity.”

Last year, Clifford completed 35 of 52 passes for 361 yards and one touchdown at Ohio State, but he lost a fumble and threw an interception that led to 10 points. The Lions trailed 27-24 entering the fourth quarter before losing 33-24 as 19.5-point underdogs.

Clifford, in his sixth year at Penn, has seen some close games against the Buckeyes, including a pair of one-point losses in 2017-18 and a 28-17 loss in 2019 when the Lions fell behind 21-0 earlier. cutting it to 21-17 entering the fourth quarter.

This week, he didn’t want to talk about how much he wanted to beat Ohio State.

“It’s another opportunity to go 1-0,” Clifford said. “I’m excited for the opportunity to play at a highly touted program like Ohio State. I’m excited to do it on the big stage at Beaver Stadium.”

It will be the first time since 2018 that the Buckeyes will play in front of a sold-out crowd in State College. The 2020 game was restricted to family and friends due to the pandemic.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for us,” said Mastifer. “I can’t wait to get out there and play these guys again. They have a huge program there. Every time we compete, it’s a great game. I am very happy to have the opportunity to compete against them.”

Rich Scarcella’s pick

Ohio State 35, Penn State 25

The Nittany Lions will need to be at or close to their best in order to snap a five-game losing streak. The sides are talented and explosive in attack and formidable in defence. To give itself a chance, Penn State needs to upgrade its offense and defense. The Lions have the knack of staying close against Ohio State, but erasing the embarrassment seems out of reach.