Excuse us, rest of the Big Ten, for being pretty confident heading to the weekend. Maybe a little too much, but some of the excuses I'm hearing about why Penn State isn't very good are just ridiculous. I'd like to summarize how I feel about these assertions and why they're horse poopy. At the end, I'll break down some stats and "delusionally" predict an 18-point blowout.
<strong>"But Penn State lost to VIRGINIA! Holy $#%^!".</strong> If you think for a second that the game would turn out the same way it did if it were played this week, you'd be sorely mistaken. It would be a 42-7 blowout. In fact, it should've been about that in week 2, since we actually started 3 drives in the red zone (but couldn't score on any of them). We dominated every non-kicking statistic. Zach Zwinack hadn't yet seen the field. Bill O'Brien made the fatal flaw of trusting his kicker.
<strong>#PennStateLostToAMACTeamAtHome.</strong> Again, this was before the Lions finally found their identity vs Navy. This was the first game under a brand new system, and the first game after the most tumultuous offseason in college football history. You'll have to excuse Bill O'Brien for needing two weeks to start taking the country by storm for COTY consideration. Also, Ohio is undefeated, ranked in the BCS standings, and most importantly, actually good this year. So deal with it.
<strong>But the best team you've played is just Northwestern!</strong> Yeah, a Northwestern team who's rushing defense was ranked 15th in the country at the time - and still is ranked 29th today. Keep in mind, this is after playing the top B1G rushing attack (and 6th nationally) in Nebraska. Penn State played their best football in the first (3 straight 3 and outs to start the game for NW) and fourth (22 unanswered points) quarters, which are easily the two most important. Let's not take away that NW was ranked at this point, indicating that they were playing their best ball at the time.
<strong>Penn State's schedule is one of the weakest in the country!</strong> That's <a href="http://www.collegefootballpoll.com/current_congrove_rankings.html" target="new">just.</a> <a href="http://www.gberatings.com/sos/" target="new">not.</a> <a href="http://www.colleyrankings.com/currank.html" target="new">true.</a>. Although there are other rankings that put do put us in the lower half of the country, the majority place us in the 30-50 range. There also aren't any rankings out there to indicate Ohio State has played a significantly tougher schedule that Penn State has. If you're going to try and use this argument against Penn State, you also have to use it against the Buckeyes.
So, sorry if I don't buy the "let's wait until Penn State plays a REAL team like the Buckeyes" clamors. Because that's exactly what everyone has been saying since the end of September.
First it was "now that conference play is starting, Penn State won't be able to score many points as they play such better athletes than they did in the non-con. Illinois has multiple NFL talents!" We scored 35 and won by 28. It was against an admittedly terrible Illinois team, but no one thought they were truly awful at the time.
Next, we heard about Kain Colter and NW's 15th ranked rush defense. Colter finished with 41 all-purpose yards, and PSU ran for over 160 yards and 3 TDs.
Last week, no one could stop talking about how intimidating a stadium Kinnick is, how PSU hasn't won there since 1999, and how good Iowa's overall defense was. Especially the back seven. Well, here's what happened - Penn State fumbled away twice, including one inside the 1 yard line, dropped a pass in the end zone, gave up a kickoff return TD, had over twice as many penalties/yards as the opponent, had a long punt of 34 (!) yards, and had a FG blocked. And won by 24 points. We put up 500 yards against a unit at the time that was ranked in the top-20 in total defense (and is still 33rd).
I'll give Ohio State some credit. It's been ugly, but they just keep on finding ways to win. I will respect that their players and coaching staff are going to be the most talented team we've faced to date, and possibly for the whole season. And I'll buy that Buckeye fans are confident in their team to keep their winning ways - that offense can score a lot of points and they can do it very quickly.
But let's be serious here. OSU is coming off a disappointing performance where they squeaked by Purdue, only scoring 22 points in regulation (and only 14 of which came from a Braxton Miller-led offense). Penn State's defense is worlds better than Purdue's - how many points do you really think Ohio State is going to score? Maybe they can put aside some execution problems, but you can't really be expecting to score more than 28-35 points. They're averaging 41 points/game in conference play - and is it really that much of a stretch to say the PSU D is a touchdown or two better than Indiana, Purdue, Nebraska, and MSU are on average?
On the defensive side of the ball, everyone knows the Buckeyes are soft - to the tune of allowing 31 points/game in conference play. Admittedly, this has come against the 3 top-scoring offenses in the conference (aside from the Buckeyes themselves at 2nd), and seeing PSU's less-than-scary #62 ranking (at 27 pts/game) should feel pretty good. But in conference play, the Nittany Lions are averaging 37 pts/game. Take away just the first two games (where PSU hadn't found their offensive identity yet), and they're averaging 34. 34 per game would be good for 39th nationally, and the in-conference 37/game would be good for 26th. Ohio State is at an impressive 22nd. But it's pretty easy to see that Penn State is playing much better offense than they did at the beginning of the season, and over conference play are averaging just 3 points less per game. Penn State is also coming off a game against the #28 scoring defense of the Hawkeyes - a game in which they scored 21 more points than Iowa's season average at the time. I'm sorry if any Ohio State fans feel insulted, but I'm expecting PSU to put up over 40 this weekend. The Buckeyes have yet to show me anything that suggests they can stop that from happening.
So, I'm predicting 42-24 and I'm standing by that. Miller gets a huge run, McGloin has another interception off a dropped pass, and the Buckeyes get one long, grinding TD drive. Belton and Zwinack struggle a bit, but manage to do enough to set up McGloin's 300-yard, 3 TD day. Defense gets another TD.