Ohio State Football, Sports

Ohio State/Penn State Preview

10.24.07 | 4 Comments

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PSU Linebacker Dan Connor
Penn State Linebacker Dan Connor

It’s Wednesday, it’s game preview time! Yay! This weekend, the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to State College, Pennsylvania to battle the Penn State Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium at 5pm PT (broadcast on ABC.) The present spread lists the Buckeyes as 3.5 point favorites. The good folks at Bucknuts have posted their game data segment with a complete breakdown of the depth charts, facts, and history of the rivalry, check it out.

At the beginning of the season, I thought there were going to be 6 troublesome games for the Buckeyes: Washington, Purdue, Penn State, Wisconsin, Illinois, and Michigan. Well, we know that in the prior night, away games vs. Washington and Purdue that the Bucks rose to the challenge and took care of business in convincing wins. You’ll notice that the next 4 games represent challenges that were identified at the beginning of the year, while everyone around has lost and the Bucks have ascended in the polls to an unexpected level, I still think that the team will do well to emerge from this stretch 2-2, will have done very well to emerge 3-1, and will completely surpass expectations to emerge 4-0.

Despite the ranking, this is still a rebuilding team. The defense is nasty, I’ll grant you that. But the offense is still finding its way and you’ve seen what mistakes can do to the texture of a game (see 7 point win after absolute domination – 56 seconds and 6 plays changed the complexion of the game.) The offense is still growing and this week, it will face the best defense (other than what they see in practice) this year. Yes, I know PSU gave up 31 points on the road to Indiana last week. But the week before in Happy Valley it held a very good Wisconsin offense to 7. Which PSU team do you think will show up this week? I’m guessing the Wisconsin flavor but hoping for the Indiana flavor…

Thinking about this preview, I’m really of two minds. The first is, this is a mismatch and it wouldn’t surprise me to see the Buckeyes blow out the Lions. But I don’t think that’s what we’re going to see. If you like defense, then you’ll love this game. It’s possible that this game will feature the best linebackers in the country present on both teams: James Laurinaitis, Dan Connor, Sean Lee, Marcus Freeman, and Larry Grant. It’s hard to imagine that Penn State is going to consistently move the ball on the Buckeyes. I just don’t see it, their offense has been, shall we say, inconsistent throughout the year and prone to mistakes. All the Lion offense needs to do is eat up clock and not turn the ball over. The Buckeye offense has been productive and consistent, but has not faced a defense like they’ll see this week – you think Michigan State had success with the blitz? Wait until Saturday. The Buckeye offense has proven vulnerable to pressure and the play of the offensive line and QB Boeckman’s poise under pressure will tell the tale.

What will happen: The Buckeyes will experience success in the first half driving for 3 scoring opportunities, however, they will only gather 9 points being unable to punch the ball into the endzone. Penn State will be shutout in the first half. In the third quarter the Bucks will put up another field goal and the Lions will answer, score 12-3. Late in the second half, a bizarre play will result in either a safety or defensive touchdown against the Bucks, resulting in a score of either 12-5 or 12-10. Let’s assume it was a defensive/special teams touchdown rather than a safety, Penn State drives for a field goal going up 13-12. The OSU offense pushes for the late score and turns over the ball. Penn State wins 13-12. OSU dominates the stats lines and still loses the game due to a) turnovers and b) inability to punch the ball into the endzone.

Now, make no mistake, I want to be wrong about this prediction. But I think this game is much closer than it appears on paper. Bear in mind, these teams are 11-11 all time, they tend to play very close games (with a periodic blowout), and the talent levels are similar. It’s at Penn State and that’s a tough environment, especially at night. All this being said, it’s been awhile since we’ve seen a blowout, and that could be the result. I’m simply not expecting it. As always, we’ll check back after the game to see just how wrong this preview was (and trust me, I hope I’m wrong on the outcome…)