On Saturday, the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes host the Penn State Nittany Lions in a prime time showdown at The ‘Shoe. Kickoff at Ohio Stadium in Columbus is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET, and the game will be televised on your local ABC affiliate with Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge, and Holly Howe handling the broadcast duties. As always, you can hear the contest on your terrestrial radio dial all across Buckeyeland on the 64-station Ohio State IMG Sports Network and around the world on satellite radio with “Big Daddy” Paul Keels, Jim Lachey and Marty Bannister on the call.
Ohio State enters the conference tilt with an unblemished 7-0 record and are 3-0 in Big Ten play, good for first place in the Leaders Division. The seven wins have come against Buffalo (40-20), San Diego State (42-7), California (52-34), Florida A&M (76-0), Wisconsin (31-24), Northwestern (40-30) and Iowa (34-24).
Penn State is 4-2 overall and 1-1 in the Big Ten with wins over Syracuse (23-17), Eastern Michigan (45-7), Kent State (45-0), and Michigan in four overtimes (43-40). The losses were to Central Florida (34-31) and Indiana (44-24).
The Buckeyes are ranked fourth in both the Associated Press and USA Today top 25 college football polls, plus OSU is also fourth in the first BCS standings that were released last Sunday. Penn State is not ranked in the AP and are ineligible for both the coaches poll and BCS.
2012 – OHIO STATE VS. PENN STATE
Last year at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Penn., the game was tied at 7-all at halftime, but linebacker Ryan Shazier intercepted a pass thrown by Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin and raced 17 yards for the go-ahead score as the Buckeyes never looked back in a 35-23 win over the Nittany Lions.
Leading 14-10, Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller added two rushing TDs in the third quarter alone, then tossed a 72-yard scoring strike to Jake Stoneburner in the fourth that put the Buckeyes up 35-16 with 6:11 to play.
Miller was just 7-of-19 passing for 143 yards with one TD and one INT, but he did gain 134 yards on 25 carries and two more scores.
OHIO STATE’S LAST GAME
Last Saturday, Iowa jumped out to an early 7-0 lead on the first possession of the game and held a 17-10 advantage halftime before the Buckeyes rallied in the second half with three-straight touchdown drives to defeat the Hawkeyes, 34-24, at Ohio Stadium in Columbus.
Senior running back Carlos Hyde rushed for 149 yards on 24 carries and two touchdowns. Miller was 22-of-27 passing for 222 yards and two TDs.
PENN STATE’S LAST GAME
Penn State was off last week and their last game was Oct. 12, a thrilling 43-40 win in four overtimes against then-No. 18 Michigan at Beaver Stadium.
The Nittany Lions led 21-10 at the half, but the Wolverines stormed back to go ahead 34-24 with 10:28 left in the fourth quarter following a 37-yard TD pass from Devin Gardner to Devin Funchess.
After Penn State’s Sam Ficken hit a 43-yard field goal with 6:35 left to make it 34-27, the Nittany Lions forced a Michigan punt and got the ball back with 50 seconds left in regulation.
Starting at their own 20, freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg completed two passes of 14 and 29 yards to get down to the Michigan 37. On the next play, Hackenburg found a leaping Allen Robinson on a 36 yard pass play putting Penn State inside the 1. Hackenburg then scored on a quarterback keeper that tied the game with 27 seconds to go.
The Wolverines had one last shot, but Brandon Gibbons missed on a 52-yard field goal as time expired in regualtion.
In overtime, Gibbons attempting three field goals, making two and had one blocked.
Penn State won the game in the fourth OT session as Bill Belton scored on a 2-yard run.
SCOUTING THE BUCKEYES
Ohio State is led by Miller, who has thrown for 831 yards on 71-of-102 (69.6%) passing with eight touchdowns and two interceptions in four-plus games. He’s also third in rushing with 335 yards on 75 carries (4.5 avg).
Toting the rock, Hyde has gained 443 yards on 72 attempts (6.2 avg) with five rushing touchdowns. Senior Jordan Hall is second with 71 carries for 438 yards (6.2 avg) and eight TDs, but has carried the mail only eight times in the last four outings.
The Buckeyes’ top two wide receivers are senior Philly Brown with 33 receptions for 453 yards and six touchdowns, and junior Devin Smith, who has 30 catches for 434 yards and six more scores.
Defensively, junior linebacker Ryan Shazier leads the team with 56 total tackles and 8.0 tackles for loss. Junior linebacker Curtis Grant is second on Ohio State’s roster with 43 stops. Sophomore defensive end Noah Spence has a team-leading 3.0 sacks, while five others – Grant, freshman defensive end Joey Bosa, junior defensive tackle Michael Bennett, sophomore defensive end Jamal Marcus, and junior defensive end Steve Miller – have 2.0 sacks each.
Junior cornerback Bradley Roby and Doran Grant both have two interceptions to lead the team.
SCOUTING THE NITTANY LIONS
Hackenberg, a five-star recruit and the No. 2-ranked pro-style QB in the nation coming out of high school, has started all six games and is 132-of-226 (58.4%) passing for 1,672 yards with 11 touchdowns and six interceptions. Hackenburg leads the Big Ten in completions (132) and passing yards (278.7 ypg) and is fourth in total offense.
Senior running back Zack Zwinak leads the team in rushing with 393 yards on 90 carries (4.3 avg.) and eight touchdowns. Belton, a junior, is second with 369 yards on 70 attempts (5.3 avg.) and three TDs.
Robinson, a senior, is Penn State’s top pass catcher with 43 receptions for 705 yards and five scores. He leads the Big Ten and is 10th in the NCAA receptions (7.2 rpg), and is second in receiving yards per game (117.5), which is 17th nationally. Senior wide receiver Brandon Felder is second with 22 catches for 232 yards and two TDs.
The Nittany Lions top stopper is senior inside linebacker Glenn Carson with 49 total tackles, 1.0 sack and 2.0 tackles for loss. Junior defensive tackle DaQuan Jones is second with 39 tackles and a team-leading 8.5 tackles for loss. Senior defensive end C.J. Olaniyan tops the roster with 3.5 sacks.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS
Ohio State leads the Big Ten in scoring offense (45.0 ppg) and is third in total offense (493.1 ypg). The Buckeyes are third in the conference in rushing offense (279.6 ypg), but are eighth in passing offense (213.6 ypg).
Defensively, OSU is fourth in the Big Ten in scoring defense (19.9 ppg), fourth in total defense (333.1 ypg), third in rushing defense (92.4 ypg), and sixth in pass defense (240.7 ypg).
Penn State is currently seventh in the Big Ten in both scoring offense and total offense averaging 33.3 points and 440.8 yards per game. The Nittany Lions are third in the Big Ten in passing (283.7 ypg), but just 11th in rushing (117.5 ypg).
From the other side of the line of scrimmage, Penn State is seventh in scoring defense (23.7 ppg) and fifth in total defense (335.8 ypg). PSU fares slightly better against the pass than the run as the Nittany Lions are sixth in rushing defense (117.7 ypg) and fifth in pass defense (218.2 ypg).
Analysis and Prediction
Ohio State has trailed at halftime in their last two outings against Northwestern and Iowa only to rally in the second half to put the game away. And with a competent passing team coming into The Horseshoe, the Buckeye offense needs to be firing on all cylinders for 60 minutes. Not only does the offense have to step it up, but offensive coordinator Tom Herman also needs to open up the playbook.
Defensively, Ohio State needs to get pressure on Hackenburg. Last Saturday, the Buckeye defense failed to register a sack as Iowa’s sophomore quarterback, Jake Rudock, threw for 245 yards.
Against the Hawkeyes, OSU’s defense was caught flat-footed most of the game. And when you have defensive backs playing 10-plus yards off the line of scrimmage without jamming the wideouts, those receivers end up running free into the secondary. After that, the DB’s seem to lose track of those receivers.
Bottom line is this, the Buckeyes must get consistent pressure on the quarterback, or Hackenburg will have an easy time throwing the ball. And though the Nittany Lions try to mix the run with the pass, that sets up the play-action and Hackenberg has attempted at least 44 passes and has thrown for more than 300 yards in Penn State’s two Big Ten games.
Three weeks ago, Indiana hung 44 points against Penn State and won by 20 in Bloomington. Playing at home is a huge advantage for Ohio State. While Penn State’s overtime win over Michigan was the biggest victory in head coach Bill O’Brien’s short tenure, I think it showed how bad the Wolverines are, not how good the Nittany Lions can be.
So far this season, Ohio State is 4-2-1 against the spread, but have only covered once in three Big Ten games and that happened on the last play of the game against Northwestern. The Buckeyes are currently a 14-1/2 point favorite. All week I’ve been thinking that this game will be close. But Ohio State has lots of prove on national television. I think the Scarlet & Gray will get it done in a big way.
Ohio State 42, Penn State 24