(Photo courtesy gopsusports.com. Stats courtesy of bigten.org.)
This Saturday, the Buckeyes (6-0, 3-0) take the field in State College for an 8:00 pm EST White Out (no doubt) against the Nittany Lions (4-2, 2-1). Penn State sits 3rd in the B1G East, behind undefeated Ohio State and Michigan.Not to tip my hand, but I don’t see any change in the standings of those teams come Sunday morning.
After being hammered (49-10) at Michigan in their B1G opener, Penn State is on a nice two game home stand winning streak. The “money managers” in Las Vegas have Ohio State favored by almost “three”, and I don’t mean points in this contest. Let’s take a small peek at Ohio State’s next
Penn State on Offense
The Nittany Lions are averaging 30.5 points per game, good for 6th in the conference. Their total offense of 392 yards per game puts them at 7th in the B1G.
Their rushing offense is averaging 152 YPG (10th) at 4.1 YPC (9th). Sophomore RB Saquon Barkley (5’11”, 223) is averaging 97 yards on 20 carries per game. Young Mr. Barkley is the PSU running game. I’m sure that Schiano and Fickell are well aware of the situation.
The PSU passing offense is actually not too bad. Sophomore quarterback Trace McSorley averages 239 yards per game on 30 attempts. The 8.1 yards per attempt is actually pretty decent. He’s completing 58% of his passes and has thrown 8 TD’s and 3 INTs.
McSorley’s two primary WR targets are DeAndre Thompkins (55 yds, 3 rec per game) and Chris Godwin (54, 3.8). Of course, since this is Penn State, their tight end Mike Gesicki gets some looks with 46 yds at 3.8 rec per game). This is pretty good balance in spreading the ball around.
Penn State on Defense
Defensively, the Nittany Lions are struggling. Understandable, since their defense has been ravaged by injury, particularly at the linebacker position. At one point, there were 7 (7!!) linebackers out due to injury.
Penn State ranks 10th in the B1G in total defense (381 YPG) with about 54% of that via opponent rushing. By comparison, Ohio State is giving up about 100 yards less per game.
In scoring, PSU sits at 11th in the Conference at 28 PPG. Again, for comparison, that’s over double (13) what OSU allows. Despite their issues, the defense had had only two games (42 vs Pitt, 49 vs UM) where things got out of hand for the defense.
Penn State ranks 6th in the B1G in punting with a 40.7 average. They’ve been punting over 5 times pre game. For comparison, OSU averages 51 yards per punt. So, for each punt exchange, OSU picks up enough yardage for a first down.
In terms of placement kicking, this is a dead heat between the teams. Penn State is perfect with FGs (10-10), so is Ohio State is (8-8). The Nittany Lions are 19-19 with PATs, while the Buckeyes are 38-39. You’ll notice the Buckeyes have attempted twice as many PATs as the Nittany Lions.
Offensively, PSU has been in the Red Zone 26 times, scoring 21 times; 12 by TD, 9 by FG. That’s scoring at an 84% clip overall, and scoring TDs at a 46% pace. Comparatively, OSU has been 31-35 in the RZ (88%); scoring TDs (24) at a 68% pace. The Buckeyes get to the RZ more often than the Nittany Lions and are more efficient with scoring TDs when they do get there.
Defensively, PSU has let opponents score 23 times in 26 RZ trips (88%), with 17 (74%) being TDs. Yikes. On the other hand, Ohio State has permitted 10 scores in 16 RZ trips (62%) with 4 (40%) of the scores TDs. Again, a huge discrepancy that favors Ohio State. Buckeye opponents get to the RZ less often than PSU opponent and are less efficient when they do so.
As mentioned way up top, the Vegas numerologists have the Buckeyes set at 19.5 point favorites; their calculations (lines, anyway) would indicate a 38-19 victory for Ohio State.
That sounds about right. Although OSU’s offense is plenty good, they tend to roll out of the gates pretty slowly, gradually building momentum. Penn State’s defense is limping along, but still quite competitive; plus they’ll get an energy boost from playing in front of the home folks on a Saturday night nationally televised game.
This game will start out a little sketchy for Buckeye fans, but I suggest we sit back and enjoy the show.