3:30 pm, ABC
Commentators: Brent Musburger, Gary Danielson, Jack Arute (Coverage Map - .pdf file)
Weather (as of Thurs) - AM Showers, high of 59 degrees
Is this the biggest Buckeye game since 1998? It could be. It's been a while since the Buckeyes were facing a ranked team with this much on the line this late in the season. Of course, this would only be the biggest game since 1998 until the next game comes around, but right now, this one is huge.
Penn State comes in as the most talented team OSU has faced since the Washington State game on September 14th. They have the complete package on offense and a solid defense that just got done shutting out a Northwestern team that had not been a slouch offensively in recent weeks. They're a physical and athletic team that will give OSU a big-time challenge.
Let's take a look at these two teams. For this game, we're going to bring out the match up meter...
|Advantage PSU||Position/Analysis||Advantage OSU|
|Quarterback Craig Krenzel vs. Zack Mills. Krenzel has developed into an effective leader and good field general for Ohio State. Mills though, as we saw last year, is one of the better quarterbacks in the region. Mills can create havoc with his legs and arm, and keeping him in check will be the key. The redshirt sophomore is 119 of 199 passing this year with 1686 yards and 11 TDs with just 3 INTs and has 95 rushing yards and 2 TDs. Another thing Penn State has in their favor is athletic back-up Mike Robinson; he has been lined up at QB, RB, and WR this year and should see some time in different areas against OSU as well. Watch out for him.|
|Running Back Penn State is better at fullback and has an outstanding tailback in Larry Johnson. Some say he may be the best in the Big Ten. He's a load at 6-2, 222 pounds. He's been through his ups and downs at Penn State, but this fifth-year senior has finally arrived as he has rushed for 876 yards on 126 carries and 9 TDs this year so far. We give OSU a slight edge here though due to the tailback depth. Maurice Clarett, if he's not better than Johnson, is his equal (or close to it), and Lydell Ross and Maurice Hall give OSU two solid back-ups. Johnson carries the overwhelming majority of the load at tailback, and PSU does not have that depth. One thing the Buckeyes need to watch out for though is Larry Johnson catching passes out of the backfield. He has 29 this year for 276 yards and 3 TDs.|
|Wide Receiver/Tight End Another one in the slight edge category to OSU. The Buckeyes have quality and quantity here as Michael Jenkins, Chris Vance and Chris Gamble are all very good options. Penn State is certainly not shabby though as they have an outstanding flanker in senior Bryant Johnson (6-2, 201, 666 yards on 36 catches) and a solid compliment in Tony Johnson (5-11, 197, 393 yards). OSU may have the edge at TE though as PSU starter Casey Williams is doubtful with a neck injury. Quantity and quality (and health) gives OSU the edge, but it's not like this area is a weakness for the Nittany Lions.|
|Offensive Line Penn State has a solid and experienced starting offensive line of LT Gus Felder (6-5, 321, Sr), LG E.Z. Smith (6-3, 287, Fr), C Joe Iorio (6-3, 297, Sr), Tyler Lenda (6-3, 293, Sr), and Matt Schmitt (6-4, 301, Sr). This unit has only allowed ten sacks this season. The fact that OSU is banged up on the OL does not help.|
|Even||Defensive Line OSU has a fine defensive line, but it's possible Penn State's might be even better. The Lions boast a future possible first-round draft pick in DT Jimmy Kennedy (6-5, 316, Sr) as well as the Big Ten leader in sacks (9.5) in DE Michael Haynes (6-3, 268). DT Anthony Adams is undersized at 6-0, 285, but he is a good one. John Bronson (6-3, 265) is at the left DE spot. The Buckeyes have been banged up recently on the defensive line, but all systems seem to be go for this game. The Buckeyes also bring fine depth. Both defensive lines could be tough to handle in this game.||Even|
|Linebackers Penn State's trio of Lamar Stewart (6-1, 224, So, 47 tackles), Gino Capone (6-1, 238, Jr, 58 tackles), and Derek Wake (6-3, 232, So) have been solid this year. The Buckeyes have injury issues here though as Cie Grant is listed as questionable with a high ankle sprain. With or without Grant, we give OSU a slight edge due to Matt Wilhelm's presence and A.J. Hawk has shown that if he has to go in for Grant, things will likely be fine.|
|Even||Defensive Backs PSU has given up 250 yards a game passing, which isn't great. Their starters are Bryan Scott (6-2, 218, Sr) and Rich Gardner (5-11, 182, Jr) at corner and Shawn Mayer (6-0, 196, Sr, 79 tackles) at free safety and Chris Harrell (6-2, 202, So) at strong safety. OSU's defensive backs have been much-maligned recently though. They'll be tested this week and need to come up big for OSU to win.||Even|
|Special Teams Penn State's special teams are not bad at all. They have a solid kicker in Robbie Gould (9-11 FG), punter David Royer is averaging 41.3 yards per punt, Bryant Johnson is a fine punt returner, and they are good in coverage. OSU's specialists have been very good though. Mike Nugent has been perfect in his field goal kicking, and Andy Groom leads the Big Ten with a 45.2 average. Chris Gamble is also a solid threat as a punt returner. Special teams could play a big role in this game, and it's good to know the Buckeyes have the leading kicker and punter in the conference.|
Some Stats to Think About:
- Penn State's defense is last in the Big Ten in Opponent's Third Down Conversions, allowing 48.3%. Ohio State is 5th at 38.6%. However, Penn State's offense is tops in the Big Ten, converting 47.3%. OSU is seventh at 39.6%.
- Ohio State and Penn State are 1-2 in the Big Ten in Red Zone Offense. OSU has a 94.4% rate, PSU is at 90.6%. The Buckeyes are #1 in Red Zone Defense, with a 50% percentage. PSU is #3 with a 66.7% rate.
- Ohio State is #2 in the Big Ten in both Rushing Offense and Rushing Defense, and Penn State is #4 in both categories. The Buckeyes rush for 229.4 yards per game while giving up 82.4, and Penn State rushes for 196.4 yards per game while giving up 109.3. With each team being strong at running back, this will be an interesting battle to watch.
This will certainly be a tough game. In some ways, the game seems to favor Penn State; in other ways, it seems to favor Ohio State. Whatever happens, we could be in for another classic Big Ten clash. Ohio State will have to step up everywhere to keep that home winning streak over Penn State alive.