We’re all hoping that the unranked Nittany Lions (4-2, 1-1 B1G) can pull off the big upset over #4 Ohio State (7-0, 3-0 B1G), much like that great game in 1964. The Buckeyes are currently two-touchdown favorites to win the border war with Penn State.
Sanguinarians notwithstanding, this game has long been flagged as the toughest of the year for the Lions. In this turkey’s opinion, in order to preserve the “mo” they established last week, they have to show some improvement here. We must face the notion that a win is not likely, and thus we can look for other positives, such as not getting completely blown out, as Florida A&M did.
There is absolutely no chance that will happen, praise the Lord. (I won’t use “zero” as an adjective, because I’ve declared it officially not to be an adjective. What is this “zero chance” stuff? It sounds retarded! But I digress.) There is good reason to believe that there is some life in dem Lions. This is the game in which they can make the proverbial statement. It will be rougher than two weekends ago, because unlike Devin Gardner, I think Braxton Miller is not just an athlete trying to play quarterback, but a truly gifted and talented football player. Accordingly, win or lose, the defense must step it up this week. (And I think there is zero chance that they won’t. How’s that for a double negative involving the non-adjective zero?)
Talk amongst yaselves. Discuss!
I’ve been saying all week that Ohio State doesn’t merit the #4 ranking it presently holds. The BCS still relies too much on the polls and we’ll all be happy to say good riddance to it next year when we open up a new can of worms with the playoff system. Ohio State is there because it started out way the hell up there and it hasn’t lost a game yet. But when you look at the statistics and bear in mind the strength of their schedule (or lack of same), you’ll come to the same conclusion as I did, unless of course you’re a Scarlet and Gray homey.
Does an outfit that ranks 79th in passing yards allowed and 81st in passing offense belong in the Top Five? All kinds of teams are completing just a gnat’s eyelash shy of two TD passes per game against Brutus and the gang. So, I’m calling bullshit! I don’t believe OSU could carry Alabama’s jock straps. If they happen to meet in the SSMNC by some strange quirk of attrition and bad FCS algorithms, the Buckeyes will get their clocks cleaned, as they have in the past.
The statistical comparison between the Bucks and FSU and Oregon is even worse. They’re a lot closer to #5 Missouri and teams further down in the pretenders pack than they are to the top three. They don’t scare me. FSU scares me.
Ohio State’s somewhat sub-par (at least yardage-wise) passing offense, though, is probably not a great concern for Urban Meyer, inasmuch as the running game is superb. The constant pounding and threat of a play-action (or whatever Jackstand would call it) pass gives the Bucks a ball control offense that can strike quickly. The rushing offense ranks 11th nationally at 279.6 ypg. Thing is, Braxton Miller doesn’t throw that much but when he does, he tends to hit his targets. OSU ranks 8th nationally in passing efficiency based on the combined efforts of Miller and Kenny Guiton. (Of course, that trails FSU and Oregon, but it’s one notch up from Alabama, who rank 9th.) Through seven games, they’ve completed 70% of their passes, throwing an average of 28 times a game. Miller has had only two interceptions against eight touchdowns passing. His backup, Guiton, is an impressive quarterback in his own right, with a 68.4% completion rate and 13 touchdowns against two interceptions. Ain’t nothing wrong with the Buckeyes’ passing game. They just rely more on the run. Can you blame them?
The Buckeyes have given up fewer than 20 points in only two games: Mountain West Conference San Diego State (3-3 and FCS Florida A&M (2-5). Furthermore, they’ve allowed 30 or more twice, against Cal (1-6) and Northwestern (4-3, 0-3 B1G). Most recently, they struggled in the first half against Iowa (4-3, 1-2 B1G) before winning 34-24. So, I guess you could say that they’ve been lucky to escape unscathed, although there’s something to be said for doing whatever it takes to win games and no more.
What pops out at me looking at OSU is that their rushing defense allows an average of just 92.4 yards per game, good for a seventh place FBS ranking, but just third in the B1G(!). However, they’ve allowed an average of 240.7 passing yards and 19.9 points per game. And who have they played? Wisconsin was the only halfway decent opponent thus far. Otherwise, we’re dealing with Buffalo, San Diego State, Cal, Florida A&M, Northwestern, and Iowa. Pretty crappy schedule, and it doesn’t get much rougher with PSU, Purdue, Illinois, Indiana, and Michigan on the tail end.
On the other hand, the Nittany Lions’ defensive stats don’t impress me much halfway through the season. They’ve given up one helluva lot of points — thrice, they’ve been hit for 30 or more points. Two of those were 40 or more. Thank God for cupcakes like Eastern Michigan and Kent State, because they weigh down the points against average to a deceiving 23.7 ppg. The OSU running game should wear down the front seven by the time halftime rolls around, even though they’ve improved a bit, as evidenced by containing Michigan’s Touissant the prior outing. However, they loaded up eight and nine in the box to do it, and that puts a burden on the secondary that I think Miller will be able to exploit to a greater extent than did the interception prone Gardner (although he still managed to throw for three TDs). The average weight of the OSU offensive line is 310.8 pounds.
With the benefit of all that meat, a healthy, 240 lb Carlos Hyde is way too powerful a runner, one who has topped 100 yards in each of his past two games. Add in tiny speedster Jordan Hall, and you have a tired defense by the third quarter. Hall and Hyde have similar stats, both averaging 6.2 ypc. Hall has eight TDs and Hyde has 5. The “good” news is that Hall has been somewhat lame of late, but he is expected to be close to fully recovered for this game. Would you believe that the Buckeyes have only the third best rushing offense in the B1G, behind Wisconsin and Nebraska?
Some Sanguinarians, buoyed by that last mistake-laden outing against Michigan, are feeling their oats, predicting a second half of the season comeback for the Lions, a few loonies thinking that PSU can “run the table.” If they played on a pool table, maybe they could, but they’re playing on football fields and half of the remaining games are on foreign turf. So, that euphoria needs to be tempered by some realities that will be brought to the fore in this game. Penn State is not yet ready for prime time on either side of the ball, and on special teams as well. The only bright spot could be the PSU passing game, because I don’t think they’ll be able to run on OSU.
So, Allen Robinson will save the day, right?
Yeah, Allen Robinson and all that stuff. He’s great, ain’t he? Felder is pretty good, too. Christian Hackenberg has made his share of rookie blunders, but he has his sparkling moments, too. (Still, way too early in his career to expect him to carry the team on his shoulders or for the team to look to him for leadership.) Robinson showed some signs of ratchetedness in the Michigan game — what I characterized as Keyshawn Johnsonism. However, as they say so unctuously in the basketball world, you want your star player to want the ball at crunch time (no matter whether there’s any crunching going on elsewhere — what the hell is crunching, anyway?). On the other hand, if I might bend you back and forth for a while, you can’t have your wide receivers and your quarterback at odds with each other. That’s where Hackenberg’s youth and — call it what you will — lack of street cred come into play. Besides, the thing is, OSU has got some pretty, pretty, pretty good playaz in the secondary — coupla junior corners and coupla senior safeties who can run with the best of them. Bradley Roby got tossed from last week’s game for one of those controversial “targeting” fouls, but he’ll be playing this week, perhaps a little more wary of who he hits with what. Most of the passing is going to wind up being underneath the coverage, so expect the tight ends, Jesse James and Kyle Carter, to be getting a lot of work. Perhaps Adam Breneman, too, if he’s out of the O’Brien doghouse. Alas, it won’t be enough.
Special teams’ll killya.
Fortunately, that last game was a marvel of suckiness on both sides as concerned special teams. This week, I’m much less worried about the field goal unit than I am with punting. Up against the 11th best punt returner in the FBS, Corey Brown, Alex Butterworth and the coverage unit better be on the ball.
Breezy with variable clouds and a high of 54F and a low of 37F. Kickoff being 8PM, it’ll probably be in the 40s for most of the game. Not cold enough for fur-lined jockstraps, so it should be good football weather under the lights at Ohio Stadium.
This is our prime-time shot. In honor of getting ABC/ESPN/Disney’s top college football crew, Artificially Sweetened opined that we should serve Mus Burgers and Herb’s Treats. I had to demur because the task of catching enough mice would fall on me and I’m too lazy to chase them, although I know of one soporific mouse that ate Xanax. He wouldn’t provide enough meat for a single Mus Burger.
The featured alumnus this week is going to be a touch choice because of the veritable plethora of Nobel Laureates, Pulitzer Prize winners, dignitaries of all sizes, shapes, and genders, primo entertainers, and, of course, a shitload of sports personalities. I’ve chosen someone from the sports world, and it is not Jack Nicklaus or Jesse Owens, who certainly deserved a load of consideration in view of their might accomplishments. Let me ask you this: how could I pass up a guy who fired Billy Martin three times? George Steinbrenner, “The Boss”, is my featured alumnus for the week. Although his undergrad days were spent at Williams College, he earned an M.A. at Ohio State, where he was a graduate assistant to Woody Hayes. He also was an assistant football coach at Northwestern and at Purdue back in the 1950s. Most famously, he owned the New York Yankees for 37 years during one of the most successful time in club history. The Yanks won the Series seven times and had a total of American League pennants during his tenure as boss. Steinbrenner died in 2010 at age 80.
Without further ado-doo…
It is time for the Official Turkey Poop Prognostication, the feature in which I make a dick out of myself by going against the Nittany Lions. Last time out, I failed miserably, going with the Wolverines minus the points. That puts me at 4-2 straight up, 4-2 against the spread, and 5-1 on the over/under for the season to date. So, I’m doing about as well as Penn State, right? Right. Every gambler knows that the secret to survival is knowing what to throw away and knowing what to keep. So says Kenny Rogers, anyway. What La$ Vega$ is saying about this one ain’t pretty. Buckeyes favored by 14.5 on their home turf, with an over/under of 56.5. The action is suggesting a Buckeye victory to the tune of 36-21. Even if the PSU defense shows up for this one, they’re in over their heads. A little offense would be nice, to avoid a complete embarrassment. OSU is a second-half team this year and a tired Nittany Lions defense will be humbled in the second half. Any second-half scoring will be a bonus for PSU, but as we’ve seen, others have done it. Wouldn’t it be great to break Urban Meyer’s streak? I don’t think it will happen here, but he hasn’t been doing all that well against the spread this year, so I’m going to going to make this no exception. Ohio State 34, Penn State 20. Take the under.