The struggle is real when it comes to seeing a roadmap for Penn State being competitive over 60 minutes
This one is tough for me because, generally speaking, I like a lot of elements of this Penn State team and believe they are a very good football team.
At the same time, I have zero expectation they will be able to compete with Ohio State Saturday afternoon inside The Horseshoe for 60 minutes.
The last two meetings have been tight squeezes with the Nittany Lions coughing up leads in the fourth quarter to lose by a point. I see this OSU-PSU game much differently.
First, in my opinion, Ohio State is the most complete team in the country. And they are the team to beat this season in all of college football.
Second, Penn State is scuffling a bit. It cost them a game in Minnesota and they overcame that mental road block to beat Indiana at home in a tight squeeze. At 9-1 and ranked No. 8 in the country – they should be ahead of Utah and Oregon by the way – Penn State is having a great season.
All the Big Ten Championship Game and College Football Playoff talk will come to an end in Columbus, though.
There are two major match-up problems for Penn State that I see impacting this game.
We can all agree that Penn State has struggled big-time this season to find a legitimate third option at wide receiver, right? Ohio State does not have that problem. The Buckeyes actually have five legitimate options as targets at the wide receiver position.
Those wideouts and the OSU passing attack led by dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields and his nearly 3,000 yards of total offense will work against a secondary that is a hot mess right now.
Over the last two games the Penn State defense has allowed 711 passing yards to Tanner Morgan and Peyton Ramsey by getting beat at the catch point on a consistent basis and way too many blow coverages. The final line of defense is very shaky confidence-wise, plus they are not playing all that well as a unit. That’s not going to change in a week against the best receiving corps in the Big Ten.
The other match-up problem is up front. And for the record I think this is the best Penn State offensive line, performance-wise, of the James Franklin era. They are exceeding expectations in my opinion.
Ohio State’s defensive front, led by Chase Young and his 13.5 sacks, 15.5 tackles for a loss and five forced fumbles in eight games, is an absolute beast. In 10 games, Ohio State’s defense has registered 93 TFL’s, 42 sacks and 22 turnovers. That’s a lot of mayhem.
Penn State gives up on average two or three sacks a game and at times Clifford holds the ball a second too long in the pocket. His quarterback in the pocket shot clock needs to be dead on point this week.
Nobody has played with the Buckeyes this year. Ohio State has not faced any adversity thanks to scoring more than 500 points and allowing fewer than 100. They don’t shoot themselves in the foot, either. Fields has thrown only ONE interception all season and OSU is Top five in turnover ratio in the country.
At every level on both sides of the ball, Ohio State is better than Penn State. The only exception to that would be at linebacker.
And don’t forget the Lions’ biggest weapon, K.J. Hamler, did not finish the game last week.
If, and it’s a huge if in my book, Penn State can win the kicking game and make OSU travel the full length of the field, get off to a fast start and not scuffle early like it has the last two games and somehow this secondary plays miles over its head then maybe the Nittany Lions can get this game to the fourth quarter.
A tight squeeze late would be the dream scenario for Penn State to have a shot. They know how to close and Ohio State doesn’t play its starters most fourth quarters.
I struggle to see that happening, though. This is a match-up of two Top 10 teams in the country and Ohio State is favored by nearly three touchdowns. That’s not because Penn State is disrespected as a 9-1 team. The Nittany Lions have a signature win and have found a way to get a victory in a couple sticky spots.
It’s because the Buckeyes have that much talent and are performing at an all-world level.
Some have picked the Nittany Lions to hang tough and give their absolute best effort – you know, make this a close game. I just struggle to see how that plays out since the Buckeyes don’t seem to have an overt weakness.
Ohio State 45, Penn State 17