Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions (5-2) vs Ohio State Buckeyes (8-0)

Andrew Weber-US PRESSWIRE

The Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes. Beaver Stadium. At night. Oh, it's on now.

Ladies and gentlemen! May I present to you this fine morning, the two best foot-ball squadrons in the Big Ten athletic conference! Huzzah!

Penn St. Nittany Lions (5-2) vs. Ohio St. Buckeyes (8-0)

Kickoff: 5:30 p.m. Beaver Stadium (Capacity: a lot), University Park, PA
The Line: Pick (some favor OSU, some PSU)
TV: ESPN -- Sean McDonough (p-by-p), Chris Spielman (analyst), Quint Kessenich (sideline)
Weather: 50 degrees. Possible showers (depending on Sandy).

COACHES:

Bill O'Brien:
PENN STATE RECORD: 5-2, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. OSU: First Meeting

Urban Meyer:
OHIO STATE RECORD: 8-0, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: 112-23, 11th year
VS. PENN STATE: 1-0 ('11 Bowl)

NOW THE FUN PART

OSU Offense vs PSU Defense -

Strength vs. Strength. Outside of OSU's passing offense (104th), no total, passing, or rushing offense/defense in this category ranks lower than 40th in the country. Ohio State is averaging just under 250 yards rushing and just under 40 points per game, while the PSU defense is giving up just over 320 yards of total offense and just under 16 points per game.

PSU's defense is nasty up front, of that you're aware. Larry Johnson's revolving door of a front line has the skill and talent to push around a solid-but-not-elite front line for the Buckeyes, while the linebacking crew is the best in the country. There, I said it. I defy anyone to find a better group of linebackers. And the Penn State secondary, for all the expected heartache it was supposed to cause, has been quietly productive. Have they been challenged much this year? No, and hopefully that won't happen again this week.

On the other side of the ball, Ohio State has some serious playmakers, including Jake Stoneburner, Carlos Hyde, Devin Smith, and Corey Brown (no, I will not refer to you as "Philly" Brown). Oh, and apparently they've got a decent quarterback. If Penn State is going to be victorious in this matchup, it is going to have to force Braxton Miller to attempt to beat the Nittany Lions with his arm. Assuming he's healthy after a rough hit against Purdue, which turned out to be nothing more than whiplash, Miller is a danger to break off a big run anytime he drops back. He is easily the team's leading rusher, so keeping a spy on him at all times seems like a logical necessity. Paging Gerald Hodges.

The weather is supposed to be wet by gametime, and that bodes well for the Buckeyes, who will keep the ball on the ground more, and try to eventually wear down the Nittany Lion front seven. However, with proven discipline and a vastly improved skillset over what showed up against Ohio and Virginia, the Penn State defense won't let that happen.

Schematic advantage: Penn State

PSU Offense vs OSU Defense -

Here is where it gets hairy. While the national statistics in the above categories were brag-worthy, here it's somewhat the opposite (though you can still brag about the McGloin-Robinson connection). Other than OSU's run defense (30th), no unit ranks higher than 45th in the country. The 79th ranked passing attack and 45th ranked rushing attack of Penn State will face the 30th ranked rushing defense and 108th ranked passing defense of Ohio State. While it was imperative to ask Braxton Miller to beat Penn State with his arm, it appears that the best way to beat Ohio State is with the passing game.

Up front, the Penn State offensive line has been spectacularly solid all year. Ohio State is going to bring some pressure from an underwhelming front line, but as long as the offensive line can continue to give Matt McGloin time in the pocket and open up holes for Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak, the battle of the plug uglies up front should swing in the Nittany Lions' favor.

At the second level, the OSU linebacking crew features at least one true freshman (you may remember him), a converted fullback, and Traffic Cone, who transferred to Columbus this past offseason. And behind them, things don't get much better in a secondary that is giving up over 271 yards of passing per game. This is where the Bill O'Brien offensive gameplan can really shine, if the execution is there. The heavy tight end reliance, as well as the use of Allen Robinson doing Allen Robinson things, could spell disaster for Ohio State.

Penn State needs to come out early, score quickly, and score often. This Ohio State team is a slow starter, but turns it around in the second half. At the end of the game, though, Matt McGloin continues to prove that he's the best pocket quarterback in the Big Ten ([faints]), and exposes the defensive weaknesses of the Buckeyes.

Schematic advantage: Penn State

Special Teams -

Both teams have special teams, I'm told. The extent of my knowledge is limited to the fact that Penn State's is terrible-to-awful. With all due respect to the young man as a person, keep Sam Ficken off the field and the Lions' chances of winning increase dramatically.

Schematic advantage: Ohio State

Prediction -

A night game, at Beaver Stadium, against the Ohio State Buckeyes. You think a few people will show up? Everything on paper points to Penn State having a slight advantage in this matchup. That's not to say the chances won't be there for Urban Meyer and Braxton Miller to put some serious points on the board. But if the Lions can play the sound fundamental football they're capable of, this game shouldn't have to be as close as we all know it is going to be.

It's not going to be 20-14 or 13-6 results we've seen in years past, but the delta is likely going to be similar. Interesting to note: since joining the Big Ten, no team has won this matchup more than three years in a row, and Penn State has never won back-to-back games against OSU. The latter changes on Saturday, while the groundwork is laid for the former to change.

Penn State 31 - Ohio State 24


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