The #4 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) host the Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-1) for a Saturday evening game in Columbus.
After winning the first two games of the season, the Nits have alternated L’s with W’s, with their last game an exciting 43-40 win over TTUN two weeks ago. Penn State had a bye week to recover from that game and to prepare for this week’s contest.
This is Coach Bill O’Brien’s (BOB) 2nd year, and he seems to be continuing last year’s success (8-4) under challenging coaching conditions. Although the Lions feature Thunder (Zack Zwinak, 6’1” 240) and Lightning (Bill Belton, 5’10” 205) as their running backs, freshman QB Christian Hackenberg truly leads this offense. Hackenberg is averaging 284 YPG (3rd in B1G) on 26 attempts per game.
His key receiver is junior WR Allen Robinson (43 rec, 16.5 YPC, 5 TD). Robinson is 6’3” and 210 pounds. That presents some physical match up challenges. As you may guess, PSU throws to their TE’s quite a bit, with the 6’7” Jesse James and 6’3” Kyle Carter being the main targets.
Historically, Penn State’s offense has averaged slightly more yards passing than rushing. Not under BOB. In the past season and a half, PSU is running a yardage ratio of 65/35 in favor of passing. This is not your Pa’s Penn State offense by any means.
Meanwhile, Ohio State is coming off a 2nd half will-imposing win against Iowa. It was a return to 2012, as Miller and Hyde carried the running game with 42 carries for 251 yards between them.
Ohio State on Offense
This will be an interesting part of the game, and I think will determine Ohio State’s margin of victory. (OK, I tipped off my “Wrap Up” section). Ohio State decided to put the Hyde Hammer down in the 2nd half against Iowa, and the results spoke for themselves. Although Braxton had a good day running, by either designed runs (including options) and scrambles (18 carriers, 102 yards), I’d rather he tone it done a bit. The Buckeyes have plenty of running backs, no need for Braxton to help. Let the RB’s do it.
Penn State’s defense is yielding a respectable 335 yards and 24 points per game. However, when they have played good offenses (Indiana, Michigan, UCF) they’ve yielded nearly 40 points per game. So, the teams that were capable of scoring, did score. Aplenty.
The Buckeyes will spread the ball amongst 2-3 running backs and get 200 or so yards rushing. They will break 200 yards passing, because OSU’s WR’s match up well against PSU’s secondary.
Ohio State on Defense
I look at PSU’s offense as being similar to Iowa’s. Young QB’s with similar statistics, a mixture of a power running back complimented by a speed back, and throwing to TE’s galore. Great. The one factor that may help OSU’s planning and execution is that, this not being a typical PSU offense, the current version doesn’t run the ball that well At 157 yards (less than 4 yards/carry) per game, the Lions are next to last in the conference. The front 7, with the defensive line in particular needs to shut down any early rushing attempts. Get them out of that habit really quick. I’d like to see this number (157) down to 100 or so.
If the Buckeyes can do that, then they can exploit a Hackenberg trait; his confidence. The PSU quarterback is talented, and he knows it. A young, gifted QB can be a double-edged sword. By shutting down the Lion running game, Hackenberg won’t be shy about throwing the ball, regardless of coverage.
Speaking of coverage, I still have an “underneath coverage” concern from last week. I’m sure that BOB’s staff has seen the game and will plan accordingly. My “big play” concern is covering WR Allen Robinson. He accounts for a third of the team’s receptions, forty percent of their yardage and half of their TD’s. We need to not let the secondary be Mr. Robinson’s Neighborhood. This will be a good game for Bradley Roby to play a complete game, literally and figuratively.
And of course, it’s PSU, so this will happen. Or this and this and this and this:
So, how’s it going to shake out? The early line had OSU -15 with the over/under at 60, so Certain Professionals are anticipating something along the lines of a 38-23 (or so) Ohio State win. I think that sounds about right. This may play out similar to last week’s game; the first half will be a bit dicier than we’d like to see, but OSU will exert its will and athleticism in the 2nd half to pull away for their 20th consecutive win under Urban Meyer.
The game is scheduled for an 8:00 PM EST kickoff, so don’t start your tailgating too early. Television coverage is through ABC. Please join us at tBBC for live in-game chat approximately 30 minutes before kickoff. We look forward to seeing you.
So, I’ve told you about Ohio State, Penn State and the game of football. Since this is the last night game of the regular season, I have a special treat for you: Carlos Santana and Michelle Branch tell us about The Game of Love.