Penn State Vs Ohio State: The Showdown We Have Been Waiting For

Penn State Vs Ohio State: The Showdown We Have Been Waiting For

Penn State Vs Ohio State Preview

It’s hard to ignore the past couple games for Penn State. We went over the Minnesota game in detail and to be honest, I didn’t give the Golden Gophers enough respect heading into the game. To be fair, it was warranted as the Gophers lost last week against the team that’s a slightly better version of themselves, the Iowa Hawkeyes. As for Penn State, there’s a lot to go over about last week’s game.

Penn State came into last week 14.5 point favorites against a two-loss Indiana team. It’s likely no one mentioned this as being a trap game, due to the loss at Minnesota a week before. It should’ve been a game I took more seriously in the days prior, but I thought the Minnesota game was more of a fluke. It turns out it wasn’t really a fluke and this Penn State team has a lot more issues going on than we want to admit.

Though the Nittany Lions have missed Noah Cain over the past few weeks due to a leg injury, they’ve been getting decent production from Journey Brown and others. This game really came down to more defensive lapses than anything else.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Penn State sits as a 18.5 point dog with the total of the game set at 57.5 at the BetRivers Online Sportsbook.

Dissecting last week

Penn State opened the game slowly, but caught an early break when Whop Philyor’s muffed punt set up an early touchdown pass by Sean Clifford. Clifford connected later to Hamler to setup the go-ahead field goal, only for the Hoosiers to use Philyor to get them setup for a Ramsey touchdown sneak.

Clifford’s long touchdown run put the Nittany Lions up until he was stripped of the ball in the pocket after the Penn State defense forced a three and out. Whop Philyor was knocked out on a fumble that set up the field goal to make the game 20-14 at the half.

Penn State opened the third quarter with a nice Journy Brown touchdown run and the Nittany Lions looked like they might pull away. Ramsey and Clifford traded late-game touchdown rushes and the Nittany Lions failed to close the door on Indiana. Though the last Indiana touchdown was too little, too late, it’s clear this Penn State offense was a little lost without Noah Cain and KJ Hamler on the field (Hamler left due to concussion symptoms). Blown coverage set up the Hoosiers futile, last minute field goal, but the Nittany Lions carry the most liability on the defensive side, as the team is showing a lot more weaknesses as of late.

Previewing Penn State vs Ohio State

Ohio State’s closest games this season have been against FAU (24), Michigan State (24), and Rutgers (23). They manhandled everyone else on their schedule, including Wisconsin. This team is terrifying. They have multiple Day 1 NFL potential prospects on their team including: Jeff Okudah at CB, Malik Harrison at LB, Damon Arnette at CB, and Shaun Wade at CB.

Ohio State has been killing teams this season and their advantages at each position aren’t lost in their offensive schemes. They’ve been getting the most out of their talent all season. Sure, Penn State has had their share of blowouts as well, but the defense has been highly suspect as of late. If Penn State can get healthy for this game, the outcome will be very different. I have some concerns for Penn State in this game, but there are some core areas the Nittany Lions need to focus on if they want a shot at victory.

Make Justin Fields uncomfortable

Justin Fields has 33 touchdowns to just one interception this season. He’s also yet to be REALLY challenged. He’s made nice throws and a few nice scrambles, but for Penn State to have a shot at slowing this offense, they need to force Fields to make difficult tight throws. A lot of his throws are scheme-driven, with guys getting wide open and often having to wait for the ball to arrive, rather than being hit in stride. He’s been comfortable all season and the threat has been his legs. He’s been able to scramble for chunk plays all season and if you’re telling me I have a choice as to how Justin Fields attacks me, I’m choosing Option 1: The Pocket.

If Penn State’s blitz can get there early, it could force Fields to make the types of throws he hasn’t had to make all season. The key will be a containment blitz, which is the type of blitz where Fields can be pushed to one side or another. If they can create pressure up front and a spy can roll outside to whichever side he gets flushed to, they can force him to stay behind the line and make difficult passes downfield. Man coverage is risky on the outside, but with Fields’ mild accuracy struggles, it’s the only way they can force him to make difficult throws. Zone schemes are nice, but if Fields buys time, it’s easier to find soft spots in the defense.

Keep one eye open for Chase Young

Chase Young is an elite pass rusher. He’s going to be a top-three pick in the upcoming draft for a reason. He can get to the quarterback in a variety of ways and he attacks relentlessly. If Young is cleared to play against Penn State, the Nittany Lions offensive line is going to have a lot to deal with protecting Clifford. The good news here is that Clifford is a pretty mobile quarterback, so he should be able to evade most trouble he’ll see in the pocket.

The key here is that Clifford avoids forcing passes downfield. He needs to take what the defense gives him and rely on his ability to make plays with his feet. Ohio State has three corners who are top three round draft prospects, so avoiding them will be key. Expect a big day from Pat Friermuth and expect Clifford to be racking up plenty of yardage on the ground.

Maintain offensive balance

Balance is typically the key to opening-up play action and the run game. Regardless of the first half game script, Penn State needs to stay balanced to keep this talented Ohio State defense from zeroing in on them in any particular area. The passing game has been inconsistent at times this season for Penn State and the rushing output has come from multiple backs over the course of the season. If Noah Cain is healthy, Penn State needs to give him 15-20 carries just to keep this pass defense at bay. Ohio State is too talented for Penn State to repeatedly challenge throughout the course of the game.

As it looks right now, I’m going with Penn State to cover, but fully expect this game to be relatively competitive throughout. I just think the Ohio State offense has so many weapons, it’s going to force Penn State to abandon the run at some point late and it’s going to cost them down the stretch. If Hamler and Cain can play in this game, I’ll take Penn State to cover and I’m taking the over. Otherwise, I’ve got Ohio State rolling to a comfortable three-touchdown victory and the under.

Prediction: Ohio State 38 Penn State 24