The much anticipated, much ballyhooed OSU-PSU game is upon us. At season’s outset, we all thought November 7 would be the bigggggggggggg day for the bigggggggggggg game, but it has turned out to be a little less consequential than the pre-season hype would have had it. (Yeah, the rose colored glasses were all seeing the winner of this battle going to the SSMNC game, while the loser would have to cry in their beer in Pasadena, thinking about what might have been.) The NCAA FBS is a cruel world, however, and things usually don’t tend to work out as our simplistically idealistic pundits would want them to.
So, #11 Penn State (8-1, 4-1 Big Ten) will host #15 Ohio State (7-2, 4-1 Big Ten), not for all the proverbial marbles but presumably for some pretty significant agates, namely, a potential piece of the Big Ten championship and peradventure, a possible BCS bowl, perhaps, maybe, perchance.
This is where hack sportswriters typically get into pontificating about who is going to what bowl if this and that happens, and who “controls their own destiny.” This is where this Turkey gets off. I’m with Paterno. Play the damn games one at a time without characterizing them with something in particular that has a p=.31 probability of happening if our team wins, Iowa loses, Michigan beats OSU down the road, Obama farts, and Paris Hilton is found to be mono-orgasmic.
I particularly despise the trite piece of crap sports slang: “controls one’s own destiny.” See my earlier post on the subject.
But this isn’t about me. Or is it? Yeah, I write this stuff to amuse myself, but I hope that in the process, I’m amusing someone out there in the vast, silent but bucolic pond of kindred spirits who read the Turkey, as well as in the fetid, redolent, malodorous cesspool from whence steenking Turkey haters surface occasionally to accuse this pristine journalist of not giving Iowa enough credit whilst dissing Paris Hilton’s dysfunctional clitoris. But I digress.
Did you hear Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno go off on some poor schmuck from Philly at his press conference Tuesday? The guy mentioned that Ohio State had surprised New Mexico State with an onside kick and a double reverse halfback option pass in a game the Buckeyes had locked up as a win the instant they signed the contract. He made the mistake of saying something like, “It seems to me that they were doing those things in a game where they didn’t have to resort to trickery because they wanted you to have to prepare for them.” Paterno cracked me up by responding irascibly, but justifiably, telling the dork, “Ya know when you start a ‘question’ with ‘it seems to me’…” and then, finally, summing up his tirade with a sardonic smirk and some continued browbeating: “Why don’t you call on Tressel at [his] press conference and tell him, ‘It seems to me…'” This Turkey loves it when old Joe puts dickheads in their place.
Anyhow, yeah, Ohio State on the horizon. Without any further adoo-doo, let’s launch into our sophomoric quasi-analysis.
Tough rushing defense by both teams, or so it seems. Both are somewhat suspect, too, because of their opposition, but this Turkey thinks that OSU probably has the better rushing defense. The PSU offensive line is going to have its hands full with these guys, who rank #6 nationally, giving up only 86.44 yards per game. That’s a legitimate average. They gave up only 88 to USC and 88 to Purdue in their two losses. This is a team that can stop the run. Meanwhile, on Penn State’s end, while the rushing defense is ranked #5 with a net give-up of 84.11 yards per game, the Nittany Lions yielded 109 yards in their loss to Iowa, and 139 to Illinois, 110 to Michigan, and 119 to Northwestern in winning efforts. So, Penn State is a little less effective against the run even though they rank higher.
Thing is, OSU sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor is a handful for a defense, mostly because of his running threat. He is sneakily fast — he looks like he’s loping out there, but he gets to the outside and cuts with the best of them. It will take a concerted effort by the PSU front seven to contain him. Other than Pryor, OSU doesn’t have its usual hotshot running back. Three guys handle that job right now, including a freshman. Nevertheless, the Buckeyes will have to succeed on the ground to win this game, because going to the air is problematical for them.
Ohio State doesn’t have much of a passing game. With only one decent receiver and a guy at quarterback who would rather be running the ball, Penn State’s #6 ranked pass defense, suspect secondary and all, will probably keep the OSU aerial game in check. Pressuring Pryor is probably not a great idea, because if he slips out of the pocket and scrambles, he’s hard to contain on the ground. Leave him alone, cover his receivers, and he’ll shoot himself in the foot, as he has all season. He has been intercepted nine times in nine games. In the loss to Purdue, he had two interceptions (he also fumbled twice), and in the loss to USC, he was picked once.
When things go bad for Pryor, the whole team goes down the toilet. He stomps around, smashes his helmet into the ground, and blames teammates. It seems to this Turkey that many Buckeye fans have a point when they assert that Pryor would probably be better suited to the position of wide receiver.
Meanwhile, what should Penn State’s offensive strategy be? Well, this Turkey thinks that much like the Northwestern game, the running game will quickly prove to be ineffectual, especially if OSU starts stacking the box. Problem is, Ohio State’s passing defense ain’t too shabby, being ranked #8 nationally in pass efficiency defense. So, that leads me to believe that the PSU offense is going to have to be patient and take what is given to them. Involving the fullback (Suhey) and the tight ends (Quarless and Shuler) in the passing attack will be important. Spread the damn ball around. Nevertheless, yards are going to be tough, and touchdowns will be even tougher.
Penn State must also capitalize on turnovers. Opportunity lost here is game lost. If Pryor screws up, make him mad, make him pay, piss him off, and he’ll screw up again.
Special teams will prominently figure into this game’s outcome. I won’t write about how crappy things have been for Penn State in that area this season. You all already know that. The national rankings read like bowling scores. Net punting: 114; punt returns: 101; kickoff returns: 110. They stick out like a sore thumb among the other categories where the Nittany Lions have done well. Ohio State’s ranks in those categories are 35, 93, and 19, respectively. However — and this is a big break for Penn State — Buckeyes kicker Aaron Pettrey had season ending MCL surgery on his kicking knee last Tuesday. Ohio State will be using a 26 year-old ex-MLS soccer player in his stead.
One thing is absolutely, crystal clear, no shit certain: Penn State cannot play the type of game it played against Northwestern and hope to win this one. There will be no way to score three touchdowns in three minutes in the fourth quarter with these guys. Mind the store, be patient, and watch your lanes. First screwup loses. If Penn State has an opening drive lapse, letting the Buckeyes go the length of the field, they lose. Fumbles and interceptions lose, and shitty kickoff coverage loses. The only chance of winning this one is to play a near-perfect game.
Of course, Paterno and Tressel both know that, and both will have completed Phase Four of their Advanced Kegel Exercise programs this week so they can cinch up their anal sphincters extra tightly for this game. Bo and Woody would be proud. Accordingly, this Turkey believes that we’ll see a mundane game with perhaps one “trick” play on each side. “It seems to meeee…”
The weather should be perfect, so no excuses there. Partly cloudy, high in the mid-50s, nothing to complain about for November in the Big Beave.
So, like, let’s get right down to the Nittany Turkey’s famous featurette, the Official Infallible Turkey Poop Prediction. This game…ahhhh, this game… At season’s outset, this Turkey counted the game as a loss, thinking that Pryor had matured and that the relatively green Penn State defense was not going to be up to the task of containing the multifaceted superstar. However, after reading the above, you know that things have changed and the bloom is somewhat off of Pryor’s rose. The bookies and the gamblers like the Nittany Lions by a little more than home field advantage. The current spread favors Penn State by 5, with an over/under of 39. Oh, it’ll be low scoring, alright. It seems to me that it will be Penn State 16, Ohio State 13.