Heading into the 2018 season, the Big Ten appeared to be led by five strong teams: Ohio State, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Through four weeks, Ohio State and Penn State are the only undefeated teams of the group, and have separated themselves from the other three teams, who have had problems in the first month of the season.
Through four games, Ohio State has only faced one opponent who offered a challenge, when they played TCU in a neutral site game. They won 40-28 in a game that ended head coach Urban Meyer’s three-game suspension. In Meyer’s absence, Ryan Day led the Buckeyes to a 77-31 win over Oregon State and a 52-3 rout of Rutgers. Meyer returned to lead Ohio State to a 49-6 win over Tulane before they head to Penn State in Week 5.
In the first four games of the season, Ohio State is second in the nation in scoring offense, averaging 54.5 points per game. Their 599 yards per game is good for third in the country. The dynamic offense is led by quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who has completed 75.7% of his passes for 1194 yards, and has thrown 16 touchdowns and only one interception. Backup quarterback Tate Martell has impressed early, completing 82.1% of his passes and throwing one touchdown. The rushing attack has been balanced, as running backs J.K. Dobbins and Mike Weber have run for around 300 yards each and five combined touchdowns. The receivers have impressed as well, as four of them have more than 200 yards.
The Ohio State defense has been strong, allowing an average of 17 points and 323 yards per game, both of which fall in the top 30 nationally. Led by defensive Joey Bosa, the defense has done its job holding off their opponents and getting their offense back on the field.
Penn State has put up insane offensive numbers in their first four games as they’ve rolled to a 4-0 record. Any concerns about this team after their 45-38 overtime win to escape Appalachian State were quickly erased in a 51-6 road win over rival Pitt. They followed up that game with a 63-10 win over Kent State and a 63-24 win over Illinois. The offense leads the nation with 55.5 points per game and is in the top 20 in yards with 515 per game. Quarterback Trace McSorley has 8 touchdown passes on the season and a team-leading six on the ground. Running back Miles Sanders has averaged seven yards per carry and has five touchdowns.
The defense has gotten to the quarterback 14 times this season and have forced six turnovers in the first four games. The defense has shown some weaknesses, especially in the Appalachian State game, where they allowed 38 points, and the Illinois game, allowing 24 points, 17 in the first half. There needs to be improvement on that side of the ball if they want to compete for a Big Ten title and a spot in the College Football Playoff.
Ohio State and Penn State have proven to be the two most impressive Big Ten teams through four games, and they meet in Week 5. Both teams have Heisman contenders at quarterback and want to prove that they are among the nation’s elite. The winner of this showdown has a clear path to the Playoff.