The #3 Nittany Lions (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) haven’t won in Columbus since joining the Big Ten and the #9 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-1, 4-0 Big Ten) would like to keep it that way. On Saturday, the Lions will invade Ohio Stadium to play a game that will establish the front-runner for the Big Ten Conference championship. A win in Columbus would also keep Penn State’s national championship hopes alive, as they would leave with an unblemished record.
It won’t be easy. Penn State has not won in Columbus since 1978 and has not done well in general against the cream of the Big Ten crop. This year’s team provides a golden opportunity to rise above the mediocrity that has plagued Penn State since joining the Big Ten, during which time Ohio State and Michigan have won or shared 12 conference titles to Penn State’s two. The Horseshoe is a hostile venue, providing much better than the typical home field advantage.
There will be a lot of media hype for this game, of course. There’s just too much at stake for that not to be the case. So let’s see what’s in store for this season’s eighth “Game of the Century.”
Penn State, of course, has a prolific offense, which it calls the Spread HD. Thus far, in games played against opponents other than those who make boilers, the offense has been capable of putting up 40-some points per game. Combining a bevy of highly talented pass receivers, a couple of highly skilled running backs, and a workmanlike offensive line with a quarterback who is quick on his feet and quick with his mind, the Nittany Lions rank 11th nationally in total offense. In scoring offense, they rank 7th, with an average of 45.38 points per game. Quarterback Daryll Clark is the best rated quarterback in the Big Ten.
However, Penn State has not yet faced a defense that is up to the task of containing its high-powered offense. Ohio State ranks 10th nationally in total defense and they have the best rushing defense in the Big Ten. They’ll probably try to shut down the run, as they did at Michigan State, where they were successful in corralling ace running back Javon Ringer, thus forcing Clark to throw and potentially make mistakes. (An old NFL coach once said that when you throw the ball, three things can happen and two of them ain’t good.)
Meanwhile, the Ohio State offense has rounded into form now that star running back Beanie Wells has returned from a foot injury early in the season. His absence might have figured into the Buckeyes’ only loss, that being to then #1 USC. In the four games he has played since his return, he has run for 508 yards. Given the crappy performance of the PSU defense against the Michigan running attack last week in which they allowed 202 yards, you can expect to see Beanie getting the ball a lot. Meanwhile, at quarterback, prized recruit Terrelle Pryor has solidified his role. On his feet, he is a lot better than either Juice Williams of Illinois or Steven Threet of Michigan, both of whom burned the Penn State defense for lots of yards. Pryor is averaging 51 yards rushing per game.
If Pryor has a weakness, it is passing. This, too, is improving for him as the season progresses. Against Michigan State he was 7-11 for 116 yards and a touchdown. However, if Ohio State can run on the Nittany Lions, Pryor might not need to pass very much. While Penn State ranks 8th in total defense, it is ranked only 22nd in rush defense. This Turkey hopes that the defensive brain trust can figure out how to shore up the run stoppage. If they can’t, the Lions are going to get run over big time in Columbus.
One other thing is for certain: Penn State must take care of the ball to have any chance of winning. The Buckeye defense will gladly slurp up any sloppily handled balls and turn them into points, ranking #4 nationally in turnover margin.
Penn State demonstrated some major flaws against Michigan, both on defense and on offense. The offense issues probably can be surmounted with a game plan appropriate to the Ohio State situation; however, the defensive flaws run deeper. Uncharacteristically for Penn State, there is a talent deficit at the linebacker position. This could be hidden against inferior opposition, but it was exposed rather graphically when Michigan came to town. It is the prime cause for concern in this game, where the defensive front seven will be subjected to a relentless power running attack.
The weather will cooperate, with temperatures in the 40s. Now let’s get out there and play this thing.
And now, that feature that you have all been waiting to disagree with. Yes, it’s time for the Official Turkey Poop Prediction. But first, let me just state that the position of my head, which is sometimes way up my ass, to be sure, is not necessarily where my heart is. I really want the Nittany Lions to win this game, but I have my fears. The Lions have this annoying habit of not showing up until the second quarter; if they are true to form in Columbus, the hole they dig with a delayed start will be fatal. While they have shown that they can surmount “adversity” against Michigan, the Wolverines didn’t offer much resistance, shooting themselves in the foot several times, and besides, the game was played in the friendly confines of Beaver Stadium. Thus, we don’t yet know how the Lions will handle real adversity against a good team in front of a huge, hostile crowd. I believe that Penn State must come out with guns blazing in the hope of jumping out to an early lead and quieting the crowd. Then it must play to win, not to “not lose.” This is a tall order for a team that can’t seem to play in the first quarter. The gambling line is 2½ points in Penn State’s favor with an over/under of 46, suggesting a final score of approximately 25-21. The Turkey’s advice: take the Buckeyes and the points. Thinking that Beanie and Terrelle are going to shred the PSU defense while the OSU defense takes advantage of a couple of Penn State turnovers, this Turkey regrettably predicts a bubble bursting Ohio State 27, Penn State 20.
If Penn State plays to it’s potential, they win easily. I think Penn State comes out fired up for this game and shuts down Ohio State for the most part. It may be close for the first half, but I say Penn State pulls away in the end and wins 31-13. If Pryor ends up throwing more than 20 passes in this game, it’s a very good sign.
What up Turk?
Its been awhile. I usually take a pessamistic approach to PSU. It just works for me. However, I have a good feeling about this game. To me it seems like OSU really only does well against 1 dimensional attacks. When they are faced with many offensive weapons (ala USC) they do not show up. Considering the PSU receivers, and Royster, and the running and passing ability of Clark. I think the buckeyes are going to have their hands full. Also, I just think the lack of Pryors experience, will in end hurt them. I just do not see a freshman QB beating PSU in a game of this magnitude. Although if PSU cant keep him contained, he will have some impressive runs no doubt. This is our year. PSU 31 OSU 17.
The Nittany Turkey says
You guys are the consummate optimists, and that’s indeed unusual for you, Parkeyboy. I can almost convince myself to believe what you’re both proffering—almost. After all, if USC can score 35 against the OSU defense, the Lions should be able to score 31. That was at home for USC, though, and after an early field goal by OSU, USC came out with guns a-blazin’ and buried the Bucks, who also did their share of self-burying with three turnovers to USC’s one. It can certainly be argued that PSU’s receivers are better than USC’s, which will only come into play if Paterno allows the game plan to be as liberal as it was against Wisconsin. I believe that is a big key, but I’ve seen the reversion to sphincter mode too many times.
Furthermore, Beanie was able to run on PSU’s defense last year for over 100 yards. Remember that last year’s defense had the services of Dan Connor and Sean Lee, for whom Josh Hull and Tyrell Sales could only wish to someday hold their jock straps. Beanie last year was a singular running threat; the Lions didn’t have Pryor to concern themselves about. I think it will be a rough day for the rush defense.
One great change for the Nittany Lions from last year is the absence of Anthony Morelli, who did his best to give away the game. However, this year’s team has shown a disturbing penchant for losing the ball.
I agree with you guys that if all goes well, PSU can beat the Buckeyes. However, shit happens, and it ain’t a perfect world, and I still have to believe that they go down by at least a field goal.
Remember, USC, Georgia, Florida, LSU, and Oklahoma didn’t think they could lose. They all had their vulnerabilities, as does this Penn State team.
May the better team win!
Don’t get me wrong TNT, I’m VERY nervous about this game, and no doubt Penn State CAN lose this game. What I’m saying is that if Penn State plays their “A” game, they win pretty easily. Just too much balance on offense that you can’t truly stop them. There are threats at all 3 WR positions, threats at RB, threat at QB, and I haven’t even mentioned the TEs. Schuler and Quarless haven’t been utilized much this year in the passing game, but when they’ve been called on they’ve made some plays and their definitely someone to keep an eye on (I think we’ll see a few throws to the TE in this game). Most of the time defenses need to worry about containing 1 or 2, maybe 3 players on offense…What do you do when you need to worry about AT LEAST 5 different players who can pick up big yardage on any given play? If we’re on our game, I don’t think we can be stopped.
Yes, if Paterno reverts to “sphincter mode” then we may be doomed. We need to put on a Wisconsin-type performance and not let up until the final whistle blows, or until we have a 5 TD lead. I’ve been impressed by the performance of this team and the coaching/play-calling much more so than I can ever remember. Listening to Paterno talk about this offense, he sounds like he has the utmost confidence in their ability to execute and that’s why I think he won’t be afraid to unleash the hounds. I think he also realizes that although our defense has played better-than-expected to date, it’s not really the same defense we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years and we’re going to need to score some points to feel comfortable with our chances. Our D-Line is solid, although we don’t have much depth, and our secondary has played well so far but haven’t been tested much. The LB play has been a concern compared to the past several years. I hope the LBs can really step up this week and stop Beanie and Pryor near the line of scrimmage rather than 5+ yards downfield.
If Beanie rushes for under 100 yards, and Pryor throws more than 20 passes (heck, maybe even more than 15 passes), that should almost definitely signal a win.
The Nittany Turkey says
I guess that between you and me, T.C., we’ve boiled down the keys to the game:
1) Use the whole playbook on offense and don’t let up
2) Stop Beanie
3) Make Pryor throw the ball
Furthermore, I’ll add one that goes without saying:
4) Take care of the damn ball
If the Nittany Lions can manage to sustain an effort encompassing all those keys throughout the entire game (i.e., not starting 20 minutes into the game), they’ll indeed win easily. I’m hoping to hell that they can. I’d dearly love to see them get through this game unscathed.
Well, they did 2, 3 and 4…Didn’t do much of #1, but a win is a win, and this was a GREAT win! What’s I say, if Pryor throws more than 20 passes and Beanie rushes for less than 100 yards we almost definitely win. The first 3 quarters were painful, but the 4th quarter was bliss.
I just hope that Bama loses, or all Big 12 teams have at least one loss (unlikely) so Penn State can at least have a chance at a MNC if they happen to run the table. How painful would that be for Paterno to be shut out of the MNC (again) with an undefeated season? Ugh.
The Nittany Turkey says
Amazing game, T.C. PSU forced the pivotal turnover and capitalized. The defense was impressively up to the task.
I think Bama stands a better chance of losing than Texas because the talent is evenly distributed between the SEC divisions, unlike the Big 12.
I’ll be writing more about the game later today.