Bank Blog: Week-Seven Preview

Ohio State looks to remain unbeaten and stay ranked number-one this Saturday evening, when they take on Penn State at home. What does Ohio State need to do to get the victory?

- Ohio State has not played well in over a month now, and that's going up against a schedule that is about as soft as Charmin. That ends this week, as Penn State might not be as talented as some of the top teams in the country, but they are anything but soft. The Buckeyes found that out last year, and without a few charitable calls from the officials, Penn State could have walked off the field as winners. 

- Even though this is a new year and things usually change for both teams, I expect Penn State to attack Ohio State much the same way they did last year. James Franklin had his team turn that game into a street fight, and would not let Ohio State turn it into a track meet. The Penn State defensive front was great, and I would expect Carl Nassib, Garrett Sickels, Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson to give the Ohio State offensive line  all they can handle once again. 

- Last year, J.T. Barrett struggled mightily and Ohio State would not, or could not, throw the football. They tried to run out the clock with a 17-0 halftime lead, and ended up in overtime after not scoring in the second half. Ohio State was held to under 300 total yards in the game, with only 74 coming through the air. I don't think that's going to happen this year if Cardale Jones throws it like he did last week. On the flip side, if Jones reverts back to the form he showed against Hawaii, Northern Illinois, Central Michigan and Indiana, then Barrett could get another shot at the Nittany Lions. 

- I would expect Franklin to try to take away Zeke Elliott, and he has the defensive line to do that, so Ohio State and Jones simply must be able to throw the football. If they can't throw it well, and they turn it over like they have on several occasions this season, the Buckeyes can lose this game. For Penn State to win, they need to keep the Buckeyes under 30 points, because I don't see Penn State putting up a lot of points in the Horseshoe. If they hold Ohio State to 17 again, they will win this game. 

- For the Penn State offense, the key to the game will be an ability to run the football, not a Nittany Lion strength. Will they have Saquon Barkley back? He would obviously help the running game. If Christian Hackenberg has to throw it 50 times like he did last year, they are going to be in trouble. I love Hackenberg, and have him as the top quarterback in the conference, ahead of Connor Cook. He is going to be a fine NFL player, but he will need help Saturday night from his offensive line. They gave up five sacks last year and had little success blocking the Ohio State defensive line. If Hackenberg can have a 50-50 balance between passing and running, and not be forced to throw on every down, he should be able to have success against Ohio State.

- For the Ohio State defense, they have to shore up a run defense that has gotten gashed recently after starting the year strongly. The pass defense is among the best in college football, and if the front four can pressure Hackenberg into mistakes, it's going to be a long night for Penn State. The key is winning first down, and forcing Hackenberg to throw against the blitz on second and third downs. If Penn State can run it and keep Ohio State on their heels, then Hackenberg becomes very dangerous throwing the football. If Ohio State has to bring Tyvis Powell into the box to help stop the run, it leaves the pass defense in a tough spot. 

- Another key will be the home crowd, and it should be a very loud environment Saturday night. If Ohio State gets off to a big lead this year, the chances of a Penn State comeback are not good. Should Ohio State get out of the box early, it could be another beatdown for Penn State, similar to two years ago. The first quarter should be a key indicator to how the game will be played. With Ohio State struggling on the scoreboard, and in the polls, there is no doubt Meyer will look to make a statement with a big win. There will be recruits in the stands, and many more watching on television, so this is going to be a big game for Ohio State. If Meyer gets a chance to score 60, he's going to do it, so there won't be any question about his motivation. 

- THE PREDICTION: This has not been a good year making predictions, and I basically have no clue how this team is going to play on a weekly basis. I keep thinking the talent and coaching makes this a great team, when in reality, they haven't really been a good team the past month or so. I still believe in this team, and see no reason to pick against them winning big. They should be able to keep Penn State around 20 points. They should be able to score 35 or so. Let's call it OHIO STATE 38  PENN STATE 17

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