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ND: After a huge comeback win and a milestone for the legendary coach, the Nittany Lions have to hit the road to play the Buckeyes. And, much like the Hawkeyes, the Buckeyes have stymied the Lions even in the sole win in the last 3 years. The Buckeyes are gunning for yet another Big Ten title and a shot at either the Rose Bowl or another BCS bowl game.
MH: It was a storybook milestone, but more importantly I think the win provided confidence and a greater trust in each other with the squad. Now the Lions face the tall order of playing Ohio State on the road. Although Ohio State hasn't beaten a team currently in the Top 25 you can be sure the Buckeyes will come fast and hard at Penn State.
Who: Penn State at #9 Ohio State
When: November 13, 2010
Where: Ohio Stadium in Columbus, OH
Series: Ohio State leads 13-12
TV: ABC and mirrored on ESPN
Line: Ohio State favored by 17
Other Big Games This Weekend:
ND: Mark, Texas is in a total tailspin right now. And, when you look at the kids on that program, it's hard to understand why. But, Gilbert and the rest of the offense will have to score some points this weekend to stay out in front of the OK State Cowboys. OK State is third in the nation in scoring and with Blackmon and Hunter scoring at will, I just can't see how Texas' defense can slow them down and how the Longhorn offense can score enough points to keep this game close. I like the Pokes blowing out Texas, which will give the kids in burnt orange their fourth straight loss.
MH: I am in utter shock over Texas and by the looks of it they will struggle to make a bowl; quite a drop considering the program was in the title game in January. There are a few interesting SEC matchups as No. 19 Mississippi State heads to No. 12 Alabama and No. 23 South Carolina visits No. 22 Florida. Both the Gators and Game cocks have lost to lesser teams this season, so we'll see how they matchup.
ND: I'm trying to figure out how exactly Baylor is a home underdog against the Aggies of Texas A&M. I understand that Ryan Tannehill has the Aggies scoring a ton of points but I don't see how they can slow down Griffin and the Bear's great passing attacking. It should be a good game that results in a ton of points but I like Baylor pulling out the upset at home.
MH: I wouldn't bee surprised if Texas Tech knocks off No. 16 Oklahoma. After a stint at No. 1, Oklahoma is reeling with a loss to Texas A&M. The Sooners are making a run at a wide open Big 12, but Texas Tech is sky-high after knocking off No. 12 Missouri.
ND: Rob Bolden is clearly a very talented QB with the tools to be a very successful quarterback for this team. However, you just can't overlook the fact that McGloin's intangibles are playing a huge role in the team's execution. The offense seems to exhibit the same moxie and swagger with McGloin under center. McGloin has not made mistakes with the football and has delivered the deep ball really well the last couple of weeks. I've also liked that the coaches have not asked McGloin to do too much. However, the Lions have not been exploiting the middle of the field recently. They have stuck to plays that are either along the sidelines or deep over the middle. I would like to see much more crossing routes utilized in an attempt to find soft spots in the middle of the field. This is where I think Penn State is really suffering without having a serviceable TE to turn to. Against Ohio State, that will mean that their top two LBs – Rolle and Homan can play aggressively against the run and not have to worry as much about the middle of the field being vulnerable. Rolle is a great LB. He's fast, athletic and he makes plays all over the football field. But, the guy that the Lions really have to watch is Cameron Heyward. Ironhead's son is one heck of a defensive end. He has 6.5 TFLs this year and he has a fumble recovery to his credit. But, Heyward is a guy that can disrupt plays and make the QB have to scramble. And, considering that Lions have been shaky at best at the OT position, Heyward is poised to have a huge day.
Yet again, if the Lions are able to get Royster running the ball, the team has the right balance to win. However, the emergency of Silas Redd has got to have Lion fans exited. He put up gaudy numbers in high school but he was in a league that was not really very competitive. But, the kid has done great in his first year. If he and Royster are able to make some plays in the running game, that will help McGloin immensely. Penn State has not been able to run the ball effectively against Ohio State over the last handful of years but they need to get a good offensive line push or the offense as a whole will struggle.
Overall, this offense has put up some big points over the last three weeks. But, Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan are a far cry from the Buckeyes. As has been the case recently, this offense will stall early and often against an aggressive, athletic defense that has playmakers on the line, at the linebacker position and in the secondary.
MH: Bolden has a bright future ahead of him, but he needs to read and adjust to the blitz; else he'll be looking at some serious injuries down the road. This was the main driver the Penn State coaches pulled Bolden, as he was coming off a concussion and was getting smacked by the Northwestern defense. On the other hand Matt McGloin deserves a ton of credit; he led the biggest comeback in Beaver Stadium history on the big national stage for Joe Paterno's 400th victory.
McGloin's shown tremendous heart and it's heard to deny that the team seems to dial up their energy when he is under center. However Ohio State is a much different defense than Minnesota, Michigan or Northwestern. The coaches also put McGloin in a scheme that helped him succeed with screens and some crossing-routes, but a big key to the offensive success was the one-two punch of Evan Royster and Silas Redd who both rolled up 130+ yards against the Wildcats.
I expect the OSU staff to stuff the box and blitz Rolle and/or Homan often to try to take away running room for Royster, Green and Redd, in an attempt to put the game on McGloin and the passing game. This means Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, Justin Brown, Devon Smith and Graham Zug need to step and open you opportunities for McGloin to move the ball.
Nirav, I am with you in being concerned that the offense will stall out on key drives, but I think it could a factor of the play-calling more than execution. The coaches can't call plays ala five yard outs on third and eight, else Anthony Fera will see extra action.
ND: The Buckeyes bring one of the best offenses in the country in this ball game. Very quietly, Pryor has led a balanced attack that is averaging 211 yards rushing and 244 yards receiving. The result is an offense that is 17th in the nation in yards gained and 7th in the nation in scoring. The key has been the ability of Pryor to make throws on first down and hit receivers in a variety of routes. Yes, I know his throwing motion is very unorthodox. But, it's working. He's completing 67% of his passes and he has thrown 20 TDs with only seven picks. Pryor still has Posey, who is the deep threat and has jets, and Sanzenbacher as his main targets. But, Saine and Herron have caught many balls coming out of the backfield. Unfortunately, the Penn State blitz has been mostly ineffective this year. The backers have not been able to get to the QB fast enough to really disrupt their rhythm. The result has been fairly large voids in the middle of the field. I really think Bradley needs to play a straight up defensive scheme that does not blitz too often. If the Lions can make Pryor make his reads and play their zone coverage with perfection, I think they can make plays on the ball. But, if they open up throwing lanes or spots in their zone, Pryor has developed enough as a passer to pick the Lions apart.
But, the Lions have to play the run aggressively. Herron is not the traditional OSU back that is going to run the football 20+ times but he runs really hard and can put his head down to push for some extra yards. Pryor has also been running the ball very well this year. And, his real asset is his straight arm. If the PSU secondary or backers try to take out Pryor's legs with poor form, Pryor will use that stiff arm to bury their helmet in the Ohio Stadium turf. The Lions need to keep contain on Pryor and they need to make their reads quick.
What we saw in the second half of the Northwestern game was a defense that played with passion, enthusiasm and with speed. The Lions have to come out of the locker room with that same energy in order to get a jump on the Buckeyes. What the Lions really need to do is force some turnovers, which they have not been able to do well at all this year. Will this be the week that they turn it around? I somewhat doubt that.
MH: The biggest problem Penn State's defense faces with Pryor and the Buckeye offense is their inability to consistently get pressure on the pocket and disrupt the passing game. Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu have improved in this realm and Pete Massaro has managed to get some pressure from the edge, but the OSU offensive line is light-years better than what PSU saw against the Gophers, Wolverines and Wildcats.
Now, if the Lions can continue where they left off defensively to close out the Northwestern game they should be able to potentially create some stops. The Lions can't come out flat or stagnant though; if they are forced to play catch-up ala last week they'll have next to no shot.
The good news is that Penn State has gotten plenty of preparation to contain a mobile quarterback like Terrelle Pryor, having faced Denard Robinson and Dan Persa in the last two weeks. However, Pryor is much better at managing breakdowns where as Persa and Robinson tend to excel at designed runs. This means that the defensive ends and linebackers for Penn State have to be on their game if they want to trip up Pryor. The good news is that Michael Mauti has come on strong in recent weeks. However, he'll need support from his colleagues in order to contain Pryor.
The key to stopping Pryor will be smart angles and strong tackling technique. They can't arm-tackle Pryor; he's too big, strong and quick to get knocked back with a battering ram tackle.
ND: The Buckeyes are always very solid on special teams and this year is no exception. Though they don't have the same stellar punter that they always seem to have, they have a game changer returning kicks in Jamal Berry. This kid has had a good year and can "house it" at any point. The Penn State kick coverage was a bit shaky against Northwestern. The Lions need to have the same discipline and speed as they did earlier in the season in order to prevent the Bucks from getting great field position. Of course, that does assume the Lions kickoff more than once!
MH: Both squads have special teams play that can be a real asset. The Lions need some short fields to help them get some momentum and keep pace with the Buckeyes, so the return game and coverage units will have to come to play in order to help PSU get some points on the board.
Matchup to Kick Back and Enjoy:
ND: Chimdi Chekwa has emerged as one of the best corners in the conference and I think the matchup between him and Moye should be really fun to watch. Chekwa has the size and strength to stay with Moye. I still like Moye's ability to make a catch in traffic but it should be fun to see how Moye performs against the best. I don't think this a matchup that favors the Lions but we'll just have to watch to find out if that is the case.
MH: I think a big matchup is how Penn State's defensive front seven manage against Terrelle Pryor and his running abilities. I do not expect PSU to get a tremendous amount of pressure on the pocket, so it will be essential for the Lion defense to contain Pryor, which is a lot easier said than done.
Keys to the Game:
ND: The main reason that the Lions have been so successful in recent weeks is that the offensive line has been able to provide protection and they have opened up excellent holes in the running game. Whichever team controls the line of scrimmage when the Lions have the ball will win this game.
MH: I agree Nirav, but I also think the PSU linebacker play is key in their ability to make reads and decisions as to when to step up and when to drop into coverage. If the Nittany Lion defensive front can't pressure the pocket the ‘backers will have to maintain contain on Pryor.
ND: Ohio State is probably the best single loss team in the nation at this point. What they have done all year is jump on teams quick and put the game out of reach by halftime. I don't see this week being any different. I like Pryor running and spreading the football to get a big win at home.
Ohio State: 36, Penn State 10
MH: I am not sold Ohio State is as good as the hype, however they are a solid team and a tall order for this Penn State squad. The Lions struggle putting points on the board in Columbus and I expect a pretty conservative game plan here, so I am not sold the Lions have the horsepower to win or coaches will put the squad in a position for a "W."
Ohio State 24, Penn State 9
Until next time,
Fight On State!