What to make of Ohio State and Penn State?
Well, this is a vexing one, particularly based on how each team looked last week. That’s probably coloring a lot of the outside expectations for this contest, too.
I think Penn State has done some legitimately good things this season. The offensive line looks better than it has in about three years, and Matt McGloin looks like a different player now that he is playing for a competent quarterbacks coach.
Bill Belton is a shifty running back, and Allen Robinson is a legitimate threat on the outside, as are a couple of those tight ends. Kyle Carter is an especially interesting prospect as he can move around the formation and fill different roles.
The NFL-to-college coaching thing hasn’t worked out for a lot of guys, but Bill O’Brien’s lessons from The League are paying off offensively so far for the Nittany Lions. They have a variety of players who can succeed in the right situation, and O’Brien has excelled at putting them in those situations so far.
On defense, tackle Jordan Hill is a true stud, and you have to like linebackers Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges. DaQuan Jones, the other tackle, also stands out but that could be because of the attention paid to Hill.
So where does this leave Penn State in regards to Ohio State?
Well… how good are the Buckeyes?
Bottom line, that’s what I keep coming back to in evaluating this game.
I think Ohio State has the better roster, but the Buckeyes have been inconsistent.
I have a feeling Urban Meyer gets his troops rounded up for this high-profile game and they put their best foot forward. If that happens, they should control the action, much like the last time they went out to Happy Valley and humbled the Lions from start to finish.
Penn State is going to try to take away the Buckeye running game, so it will be incumbent of Braxton Miller to take advantage of one-on-one matchups on the outside. Devin Smith should have plenty of chances to go deep and make plays if Miller can get it to him.
On the flip side, O’Brien can be expected to scheme up something to attack the Ohio State defense on the edges where it has been vulnerable. Having healthy versions of Nathan Williams and Michael Bennett along with the improving Noah Spence should help, but the linebackers will be on alert in the passing game.
I look for Ohio State’s corners to handle the Lion receivers in a matchup of strengths, but the Buckeyes have to avoid the communication breakdowns and coverage busts that have plagued them all season and led to a lot of big plays.
If they don’t, their perfect season is in serious jeopardy.
If they do, I think they have the horses to bring home win No. 9, perhaps handily.
O’Brien had Penn State playing at peak efficient last week, but Iowa also played very poorly. The Hawkeyes made several unforced errors that helped turn that one into a rout.
Urban Meyer’s Buckeyes weren’t up for last week’s game, but they have made a habit of taking energy from raucous opposing crowds.
I look for Penn State’s aggressive defense to take some chances that pay off in big plays both ways, with Ohio State making more of them and coming out a winner. Miller’s feet could play a large role, too, as I’m not sure PSU has seen a run threat like him for an entire game.