I am a former college football player, I played at both the Division 1 and 2 levels. I now coach high school football in South Carolina. This is not in any way shape or form an "expert" opinion. This is simply MY opinion on what type of defense could shut down PSU's prolific attack this year. I have seen a lot of "pundits" and "experts" say that PSU will get owned in a big time matchup against an SEC, Big 12, or Pac10 school. Well listen to my opinion and see what schools fit this mold.
PSU loves to run the football, no matter what formation they come out in they want to see if they can run the football. To run they have four main threats: Running threat 1 Royster, most of his carries come between the tackles. To stop this you need to have a stout interior defensive line, some gap busting 300 pounders who can demand a double team, prefferably two of said DT so you need to be in a four man front. Running threat 2: Darryl Clark, the majority of his carries are on zone read plays and designed qb dives which presents a unique problem this guy can run inside or outside so to negate this you need either defensive ends who are great contain players, or outside linebackers who can cover alot of ground and who are great at READING plays, I.E. smart backers not guys who play out of position. Running threat 3 Green, this kid can run inside so your big boys should help there, but he is also a threat to the outside and has some jets...the same stuff that stops Clark should stop Green. Running threat 4, any of the wideouts, end arounds designed options, heck even trick plays...A smart stay at home defense with speed will help here.
Now lets say you come into the game and you have a front that can stop PSU's running attack, you still need to cover the secondary, and get pressure on Clark while keeping him contained to the pocket. To do this you have some options, you have big boys in at DT who are run stoppers and only have a bullrush move. They aren't going to flat beat someone on their passrush moves. Your defensive ends can't fly up field either unless it is an obvious passing situation, because of the running threat off the edge. So you need to bring someone from the second level. But by blitzing you open holes in your secondary and put people on an island out there. This is fine against an average recieving corp, or even against a team with a stand out wideout. But as we all know PSU has three GREAT recievers, and two good TEs, and a plethora of other receiving options (see that stats on how many different PSU players have caught a TD pass, I believe its around 10). And just when you think your getting enough passing pressure by blitzing, guess what creeps up? The PSU screen game that has been terrific all year. This offense just offers way too much balance for an opposing defense to sell out to one area of the game.
Here is the defense you would need.
a 4-3 with smart athletic linebackers who can blitz effectively and cover just as good. Defense Tackles who can command double teams, and defensive ends who are both disciplined and athletic. A secondary with run stopping safteys who are also ball hawks, and two to three shutdown corners. And enough subs to keep that defense fresh, or an offense that can controll the football.
How many defenses fit that description?