My Analysis of the Big Game

I just finished reading Mike's great post about the statistical matchup on Saturday and I started to write a response, but I realized it was too long to put there so I deceided to make it a FanPost.

Two weeks ago, I along with most of you, were feeling pretty confident that PSU could roll into Ohio State and get a W. Then last week happened. PSU and Michigan had a knockdown, drag 'em out first half that ended with alot of us fans deficating in our pants. While at the same time, it appeared as if Ohio State had awakened from its season long slumber. On the surface this is a cause for concern, but stopping for a minute and looking at the matchups and possible gameplans you will see that PSU is a hands down favorite to win on paper.

First, let us take a look at Ohio State. Over the year they have struggled against a lot of teams -- most notably the loss at USC, and the nail bitters at Wisconsin, and against Purdue. Looking for a resounding pattern in those games is hard to do.

  •  The Purdue and Wisconsin games in my opinion can be chalked up to the impotence of the offense. Their defense helped their team hang around.  But looking at both of those opponents' offenses will tell you why they hung around. They are one dimensional, as we all found out when we played them. Wisconsin will run even with 9 guys in the box, and Purdue is sold out to basketball on turf. The defense surrendered some points but also created key turnovers that helped swing the balance to the Buckeyes.
  • The USC game is easy to analyze and in a lot of ways I think is the best indicator of PSU's chances on Saturday. USC employs a varied attack that utilizes different running backs, a plethora of recievers and at the time a decently mobile QB. Does that sound like any team you know? While I will admit the talent level isn't the same. The experience for PSU is greater, and most of the time that that will make a big difference. USC was able to get the ball into a number of recievers' hands and just kept the OSU defense out of rhythm the entire game.  

So, that brings us to last week when the Poison Nuts awoke to the tune of 45-7 against a highly regarded MSU team. On the surface this is impressive, but stop and take a quick look at the key stats in the game. Michigan State lost 5 turnovers. Ohio State 0. That is pretty significant. I was unable to find the number of points off of turnovers but there were at least 6 as a fumble was returned for a TD. The second major stat is 52 yards rushing for MSU.  Javon Ringer was shut down, and for a team that became overly reliant on his play this was a kiss of death. The main reason he was shut down was because of the lack of downfield threats and a deep depth chart at WR for the Spartans. They were unable to get good matchups against the secondary and with their run game shut down it was a snowball effect.

I truly doubt Penn State will be shut down the way MSU was on Saturday. I think that the depth at WR (ten players with TD receptions) coupled with the mobility of Clark will open up the passing game. The vaunted secondary of the Buckeyes will be forced to either cover slot WRs with a LB (Williams in the slot versus Laurinaitis anyone?) or pull a saftey out of coverage thus leaving deep ball open. Also, the offensive balance the Lions have will be on display if they can get the run game going. OSU will not be able to sell out to the run like they did against Wisconsin, and Michigan State. They also cannot sell out against the pass like they did against Purdue. There are too many threats and not enough speed defensively to shut the offense down consistantly.

Also, looking at the several close games the Buckeyes have been involved in, you see that the offense was stagnant. Part of this can be attributed to the poor play of Pryor, but also the lack of balance offensively. If you shut down the run of OSU as the Wisconsin defense was able to do you force Pryor to beat you with the pass game, something he has struggled to do this year.  I think we have more than ample speed and skill on the defensive front to help make Pryor's decision making a little hurried.  Also if you watched the big TD pass he had last week at MSU Pryor just floated that ball up there for the receiver to catch. I would hope our senior-laden secondary can make a play or two on a ball like that.

Bottom line is this, the score of the MSU game is misleading, MSU shrunk to the challenge last week and did nothing to counteract some bad turnovers and the game got away from them quickly. If PSU does not turn the ball over this game is a PSU win. But give up several turnovers early and this game might get interesting. 

Just my two cents worth.

Also: I didn't expect this to become a front page post so I feel like I need to add something. The only times all year that PSU has been in a dog fight is from their own doing. Purdue should not have been as close as it was, but the vanilla gameplan directed it that way. I hope the offense opens it up and uses the plays that have been run all season long. A Wisconsin-like opening of the play book would be awesome. The other time the Nits struggled was from turnovers and sloppy tackling in last weeks first half. They made some adjustments defensively, and the offense eventually came around and took over the game.

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