Ohio State returns to the friendly confines of The Shoe this weekend for maybe its biggest weekend of the year. Not only will the Penn State matchup play a huge role in shaping the conference championship and college football playoff pictures, but it will be the Buckeyes’ biggest recruiting weekend of the season with a loaded list of visitors.
Will the Buckeyes be up to the challenge or will the Nittany Lions and Ohioan Drew Allar derail things?
Although the competition has not been stiff, every advanced statistical ranking shows that Penn State’s defense is one of the best in college football. Manny DIaz uses a variety of slanting, sim pressures, and fire zones to create negative plays. On early downs, Ohio State needs to continue to mix the gap run schemes they are using to positive effect to wash down the slants, combined with RPOs and quick game to stay ahead of schedule. The Nittany Lions will provide opportunities to hit explosive plays against their cover 2 rotation. And the Buckeyes need to have a plan to place Marvin Harrison in the slot with man beaters.
Offensively, Penn State has not been explosive. Instead, they will use a heavy amount of 12 personnel, with RPO and quick screens attached to the run game. Look for Jim Knowles to be more aggressive then he was against Notre Dame, mixing in run pressures on early downs while continuing to change up the coverage in the back end. Ohio State and Penn State both have top ranked defenses. But the Buckeyes’ offense is statistically well ahead of Penn State’s. If Ohio State can score more than 24 points they should be able to win.
Ohio State 26 Penn State 19
I’m sure I’m not alone in thinking this is going to be a close, relatively low-scoring game. I don’t see either offense having a ton of success. The running games should be pretty well contained. If anybody can run the ball well, go ahead and give them the advantage. I just don’t see it happening for either squad.
Penn State’s passing game has been low-wattage, but consistent. Like a clock powered by a potato. If the Ohio State offensive line can protect Kyle McCord, I expect the Buckeyes to be able to throw the ball a little bit. McCord will need to play his best game to get a win by a couple of scores. It’s unrealistic to expect anybody to play their best against their toughest opponent, however. I don’t think Penn State’s offense scores much, but I do think they’ll get a short field or two. If they get too many, they’re going to win. McCord needs to protect the ball as well as Allar has. He needs to be more careful than he’s been in the past.
Don’t give Penn State anything they haven’t earned, and you should be okay.
Ohio State 24 Penn State 20
This game will come down to two things, in my opinion. Ohio State’s ability to protect Kyle McCord from an athletic Penn State front seven, and the Buckeyes’ ability to contain the Nittany Lions’ powerful rushing attack.
On the surface, this looks quite a bit like the Notre Dame game. Penn State’s defense is stout, but the secondary has not faced a test like the Ohio State receivers will provide. On the flip side, Penn State has a very talented quarterback with a really good running game, and one of the best offensive lines they’ve had in recent memory.
But do the Nittany Lions have enough juice on the outside to threaten the Ohio State secondary and keep the defense honest? I don’t think so and that’s why I see this game as being very similar to the Notre Dame, except this time Ohio State is at home and has had a few extra weeks to build chemistry and confidence. Buckeyes win a low-scoring slug fest.
Ohio State 20 Penn State 17
I am not sure who has more hype around them, the hype of Penn State being some sort of world-beater or the hype of Ohio State just managing to stumble to 6-0. Narratives are set and you are either in one camp or the other going into this game.
I don’t think that things are quite as bad for Ohio State as some national pundits would like to say and I don’t think that Penn State is quite as good as people are saying. Sure, I have seen the bowl projections and people are wanting to put Penn State in the playoffs, even above Michigan, another team that looks good on the surface but we are not quite sure how solid the foundation is.
Will Ohio State be able to handle PSU’s station-to-station offense? Or is this the week that PSU goes to a real aerial attack under Drew Allar?
Will Ohio State be able to run the ball and prolong drives? How healthy are the running backs? I don’t have the answer to any of these questions, and if you do, please enlighten me.
Home field means a lot, as does Ohio State’s dominance in this series. I think that Penn State has some advantages in this game, but I feel the Buckeyes are the more talented team overall and while there is a faction of the Ohio State fanbase that is not sold on Ryan Day, I see fewer people that are sold on James Franklin in the biggest of games. And that is real.
Ohio State 28 Penn State 24
Halfway through the regular season, the Penn State offense has been
consistently efficient but rarely explosive. Playing a middling
schedule, the Nittany Lions have not been able to generate big plays
on the ground or through the air, and there isn’t much reason to think
they will be able to do that this weekend against an impressive OSU
The Buckeyes have struggled to run the ball consistently behind a
shaky offensive line and with a banged-up running back room. However,
the passing attack has shown signs that it can be both consistent and
explosive. Penn State’s defense has put up impressive numbers this
season but hasn’t faced an offense ranked in the top half of FBS in
either points per game or yards per play.
It might be overly reductive to say that this game will be tight
enough that it will come down to one of the quarterbacks making one
big mistake, but close games frequently do. If that’s the case this
weekend, I’ll take my chances with the guy in his third year in the
offensive system, with better receivers, and playing in front of a
Ohio State 24 Penn State 20