Ohio State: It’s dangerous to overlook Trace McSorley

NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Ezekiel Elliott
NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 01: Ezekiel Elliott /

There’s a star player Ohio State will focus specifically on but they cannot forget the player that has the football from the get-go.

Saquon Barkley is going to get a lot of the focus with Ohio State‘s defensive game plan. He is arguably the most dangerous running back in the country and the do it all star has had the Buckeyes’ number the last two years.

However, if Nittany Lions quarterback Trace McSorley isn’t planned for, it could be a long day for the Silver Bullets.

Barkley leads the team with eight rushing touchdowns. No surprise there at all. McSorley is second on the team with seven, not exactly a chasm of a difference for Penn State. That rushing touchdown total is already the same as is 2016 total, so he is taking advantage of the attention being paid to Barkley to find the end zone.

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Take for example last week against Michigan. Barkley had ripped off multiple big runs, including two long touchdown runs. When the Wolverines overreacted to stop Barkley, McSorley scored two rushing touchdowns of his own.

In 2016‘s matchup, McSorley’s box score wasn’t pretty as a passer. He was only 8-23, but those completions went for 154 yards and a touchdown. While a terrible completion percentage can be blamed on the weather, McSorley did plenty of damage with his arm to rally Penn State to comeback late.

He added 63 yards on 19 carries and another touchdown. His ability to be a threat on the ground is a big reason why Barkley averaged over eight yards per carry last year against the Buckeyes.

McSorley’s improvement as a passer also allows coach James Franklin to punish defenses that overload to stop Barkley. In 2016, McSorley completed 57.9 percent of his passes, but this season that number has jumped all the way up to 66.8.

Through half as many games in 2017, McSorley is on pace to throw for more yards, with more completions, and still that higher completion percentage we just outlined. The same is true as a runner. McSorley is on pace to have more carries, more yards, and more rushing touchdowns than 2016.

It might seem on the surface like we’re overlooking the obvious in Barkley. Yes, he is every bit the dynamic runner that Buckeye fans should be afraid of. No, McSorley isn’t the next coming of Tim Tebow or even J.T. Barrett for that matter.

Yet, when you think about what helps make the Ohio State offense so dangerous, the threat of the quarterback run is a huge benefit to J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber.

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The same value is there for Penn State. Barkley allows McSorley to be dangerous in his own right and if Ohio State’s defense isn’t ready, it could be another long night.