Alas, all hate things must come to an end. Here's how we see tomorrow's game shaking out.
Honestly, I can see this game going either way. Both defenses should dominate, and the score should be low. Really low. A big special teams play, or a key turnover could swing the balance.
But having said that, I like Penn State's chances in this game. I've watched a lot of Ohio State football this year, and I just don't see any cohesion on offense. Do they run the spread or a pro-style offense? Is Terrelle Pryor a pocket passer or a spread option quarterback? I can't tell. But I can tell you he's far from being a polished quarterback. And the players around him at running back and offensive line don't exactly make his life any easier. But his receivers are capable of bailing him out when he punts on third down.
When Penn State gets the ball, I'm expecting a lot of frustration. They're not going to move the ball easily, but they won't get dominated. They'll win some battles, but the Ohio State defense will win their share as well.
Both teams are going to struggle offensively. Barring a bunch of turnovers, this game is going to come down to which team can put together one or two good drives and come away with points. Though Penn State will go through a lot of frustration, I think their offense is better suited to put together one or two drives, and I think that will be the difference.
Prediction: Penn State 17, Ohio State 10
Why isn’t this game going to play out exactly like last year’s?
The only difference I can come up with is that Pryor lacks a Robiskie to bring down the jump balls. Add in some downgrades on both offensive lines, maybe compensate for the fact that the Buckeyes haven’t really found a true replacement for Wells….and, honestly, most of that seems a wash.
The wildcard is Daryll Clark and the offense. While we like to boast about the Penn State defense around here, Ohio State’s is at least as good. They may lack some of the real standouts up front and at linebacker, but they make up for it with balance.
The offense is going to be kept on a very short leash, which is something you can’t really blame Paterno for considering the situation. Can Clark, with the über-safe playbook, move down the field three or four times? I'll say just barely. Add in a couple of missed Ohio State field goals, and the defense rides this one home.
Penn State 13, Ohio State 6
Run Up The Score:
I expect to see a very similar Penn State offense to what we watched last week at Northwestern, with lots of quick, safe throws to the wide receivers. The Nittany Lion offensive line has slowly improved throughout the season, but Ohio State is too good and too fast at the front of their defense to try repeated five and seven-step drops. If Penn State is going to go deep, expect them to do it like they did against Northwestern -- play-action and rolling Clark away from the rush. If they can get the team around 100-125 rushing yards, that should keep the Buckeye defense sufficiently honest.
Defensively, you're likely to see a repeat of last year's scheme in Columbus. Basically, they'll try to keep Pryor in front of them and force him to win with his brain and arm. In that sense, losing Aaron Maybin to the NFL isn't as big of a deal against Ohio State compared to other opponents. Jack Crawford and the other defensive ends will most often be asked to contain the quarterback, not attack him. And don't forget about the biggest difference between this year's PSU defense and the 2008 version -- Sean Lee is back, which gives the coaching staff additional flexibility. Should be interesting to see if Navorro Bowman acts as a QB spy, like he did at times against Tate Forcier. The place to beat Penn State is between the safeties. If that means Terrelle Pryor is going to throw the ball across the middle, I'm all for it.
Amazingly, this may be a rare 2009 instance in which Penn State has an advantage on special teams. Collin Wagner has settled in quite nicely. No, he'll never give you a legitimate shot at a 52 yard field goal, but how likely would Joe Paterno be to attempt such a kick in what is going to be a field position battle, anyway? Ohio State is dealing with the loss of their kicker to a knee injury. The replacement, Devin Barclay, is a former MLS player who went 1-for-3 last week with misses from 36 and 47 yards -- and that's in a no-pressure game at home against New Mexico State.
There's a path to victory for Ohio State that includes forcing turnovers from Clark and a big play in the kicking game. In reality, the game should be decided by only two or three big, big plays, so it's not like there's a ton of room for error on either side. Still, in this type of game, give me the better and more mature QB at home, every time. Ohio State doesn't have enough playmakers on offense to take the pressure off Terrelle Pryor, and he's just not good enough -- not yet, hopefully -- to win this kind of game on his own. A fourth quarter touchdown after a Buckeye turnover ices it for the good guys.
Penn State 20, Ohio State 7