Show me just something resembling sound, fundamental football without trying to offset your basic incompetence by scoring lots of points. I’m talking to both #9 Penn State and #4 Ohio State here. Please?
The atmosphere at St.Joe-Penndot Memorial Stadium will be electric, inasmuch as this White Out game has been hotly anticipated since last year’s 39-38 slugfest, won by the Buckeyes. While it is just another Super Bowl to James Franklin, this is a make-or-break game for anyone with the wild-ass, unrealistic expectation on either side that their boys are playoff-bound.
It is clear to me that the Nittany Lions were seeking to brush aside Illinois in last week’s Super Bowl while peering over the horizon toward this thing. And while this turkey would love to see something like a 14-10 outcome where defense is king, well, get those thoughts out of your head. This one will not disappoint those of you who like to see lots of scoring. You knew that all along, but I’ll say it anyway. If you liked everything about last year’s game but the final outcome, you’re going to like the way this looks. I guarantee it.
Whither the Defense?
With the news that injured all-wonderful, brother-from-a-same-a-mudda defensive end Nick Bosa will not play until November, some essence of defense is an even farther-fetched concept. The Schmuckeyes bring a 4-0, 1-0 record to Beaver Stadium on Saturday for a pseudo-showdown with the Nittany Lions, who possess an identical record. Both have problems living up to their rankings (#4 and #9) if you examine their performance on the defensive side of the ball. In the entirety of the FBS, Ohio State ranks 25th in total defense while Penn State ranks 45th.
I think it is fair to believe that neither team will improve on last week’s performance defensively, so let’s examine what they did (or didn’t do). Ohio State held 1-2 Tulane of the AAC to 256 yards total offense. Not too wonderful, especially because Tulane suuuuuuuuuuuuuucks. However, Penn State gave up a putrid 411 yards to Big Ten bottom-feeder Illinois, which included 245 rushing yards. Through it all, Penn State recorded only one sack. Absolutely tinhorn crapola not worthy of Top Ten football, and while the final score looks lopsided, the game could have gone either way until deep into the third quarter. PSU put up a 35-point fourth quarter, which served to mask a host of problems in the minds of many. Just kickin’ the old can down the road until the first real opponent of the year. Where have we seen this story before?
A scoring juggernaut. Invincible. Not. Read my lips… not… without… a… defense!
On the other hand…
In Total Offense, Ohio State ranks 3rd in the FBS, while Penn State ranks 16th. In scoring offense, PSU and OSU are neck-and-neck for the top two slots in the NCAA just ahead of Alabama. They’re averaging 55.5 and 54.5 points, respectively. So, you might say both squads have an offense.
Trace McSorely might not win the Heisman this year, but he’s a legitimate candidate. Miles Sanders, this week’s Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week, is a solid, if not spectacular running back. By that I mean he ain’t no Barkley. The offensive line is working out many of its former problems. Although Sanders lost his backup, Mark Allen, to a potentially career-ending injury, there’s a lot to be said about this offense.
Same about tOSU. J.K. Dobbins, now concentrating on the running game, ran for 121 yards against TCU and Mike Weber had 64. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins completes over 75% of his passes to a talented receiving corps, including the sometimes spectacular Paris Campbell.
We could go to great lengths prolonging this statistical comparison ad nauseam. Ain’t necessary. We can describe these teams in round, general terms: Offense Sí, Defense No.
I won’t wait for James Franklin’s media love fest today, because it won’t mean anything, anyhow. You could probably write the script for it and be 90% accurate. A lot of what will follow (aside from the weather) is straight out of this turkey’s ass, and it’s just as good as that. (Better’n a blind date with Bill Cosby.)
The game should be played under decent conditions. Temps should be in the low 60s and precipitation minimal to nonexistent. But you know what they say about the unique weather wherever the hell you go: if you don’t like the weather, wait 15 minutes and it will change. All that having been said, I do not believe weather will be a factor. The white-out is not related to snow, after all.
Da Bottom Line
You know, I haven’t said much leading up to the Official, Infallible Turkey Poop Prediction. That’s because I don’t know much. The common wisdom is that this game will be big on offense and deficient on defense. I see no reason to deviate from the common wisdom.
In a score fest, either team could get lucky if the other guy gets sloppy. Just keep piling up points and hope you wind up on the winning end. If your team avoids unforced errors and mental lapses, you’ll prevail. It’s kind of like NASCAR racing with the throttle wide open at all times — you’ll lead the pack for a while but one mistake and it’s all over. I see this as a high-scoring game where screw-ups will widen the gap.
Penn State has played no one. Yet the team has shown it can blunder its way into desperate situations. Then, the apologists emerge spewing shit like, “I think you’ll be surprised to find out that Appalachian State is a lot better than you thought.” Yeah, yer fulla shit. Like the crocs, you’re in de Nile. You want to feel better about the Nittany Lions’s narrow escape to a Sunbelt Conference team. Oh, you say it’s because it was the first game of the year. Oh, you say. Keep saying oh. Ohio State put 77 points on the Beavers the first game of the year and never trailed. What’s that? We all know that App State is way the hell better than Oregon State. Oregon State is the Illinois of the Pac-12. Bla bla bla.
PSU has shown it can come back and win — against the likes of App State and Illinois. But it hasn’t shown that it can avoid putting itself in a hole it has to claw out of. Especially not against an opponent like Ohio State. Get a couple touchdowns behind and the Urbmeister will grind out the clock with a running game cutting through a nonexistent defense like a hot knife through buttah. That omnipotent, high-powered offense might just fall short. So they better not dig a hole for themselves.
In the meanwhile, if the Buckeyes are #4 in the nation, the gap between #3 and #4 must be immense. They have too many problems. They, too, have shown they can come back and win when the chips are down, and they, too, shouldn’t have dug a hole for themselves. They did so against a halfway decent team in TCU (obviously almost as good as App State).
While I try to collect my thoughts on who the hell will win this game, I write drivel. I need to reel myself in. Let’s look at the early gambling action. We’re roughly at tOSU – 3.5 and o/u 67.5, which suggests a semi-break-even of 37-34 in favor of the visitors. The gamblers obviously aren’t paying attention to just how crappy these defenses are. Neither are the media wonks, who seem to center around 45-37 in favor of tOSU. I have a feeling that your predictions and those of the pseudo-pundits of the sports media will be a variation on that theme, with Phil Grosz drinking the Kool-Aid and calling for a PSU upset. As a responsible turkey, I cannot ignore the missing pieces (like an entire missing PSU front seven). Ohio State 66, Penn State 45. Take the OVERRRRRRRRRR.
But I’m secretly hoping they surprise me by playing error-free ball and displaying a modicum of effective defense. I can hope.
I’ll be back after the game with a big shovel and lots of “aw shit” comments — awful offal from the turkey cloaca.