Blue/White Roundtable Week 9 - Penn State vs. Ohio State Buckeyes

Matthew Holst

The Penn State blogosphere answers the most pressing questions about blowing out the Hawkeyes, running back by committee, Braxton Miller's offensive prowess, and this weekend's rivalry game against the Ohio State Buckeyes in the Ineligi-Bowl.

Blog mob...ASSEMBLE!

O-H! Oh no!

You are looking LIVE! at the Blue/White Roundtable, headed to Beaver Stadium alongside Buckeye alums O.A.R., where the Nittany Lions host #9 Ohio State!

Each week, yours truly will pose a variety of questions to Penn State bloggers from every corner of the Nittany Lion internet. We'll post the greatest hits here each week, but make sure to check out our blogging brethren for their full responses every week!

You all recognize this week's panelists - our own Cari Greene, Bill Engel and Carole Kirkpatrick from PennLive's 50-Yard Lion Blog, Kevin McGuire from The Nittany Lions Den, and all of the D-O-double-G's from JoePa's Doghouse!

Iowa: satisfying win, or most satisfying win?

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J Schnauzer: Heh, I understand the gist of this question. It is a complete break from the past: an acceptance that Penn State football can be fun, exciting, aggressive, and modern and still be Penn State football. I want more of it.

Kevin: It is hard to find anything to complain about as it relates to Penn State from their flat out dominating win at Iowa. The drought in Iowa City was ended in resounding fashion with the offense displaying a killer instinct after the first series jitters were behind them and the defense was not allowing much of anything to happen on their watch. To do against a team that has long been a thorn in the paw for the Nittany Lions for so long and to do so in an environment that has been far from kind to them for the past decade was as representative of a new era as anything could possibly be.

At this point in the season, the victory at Iowa has to be considered the most satisfying win.

Cari: I won't say most satisfying-yet. It may end up being the most satisfying of the season, based on how the rest of the year plays out. But it's pretty damn satisfying in itself, especially since I was there and outnumbered more than 50 to 1. And the fact that we looked flawless for much of the game, or near-flawless (we're no Alabama)-and everyone, from the announcers to the booth guys on BTN's final drive, to everyone on opposing boards, was floored. It was nothing short of awesome.

Carole: That first win of the Bill O'Brien era was pretty special. The Northwestern come-from-behind win was insane because it was at home. I think the Iowa win was so very satisfying because it came in a venue where the Lions normally struggle against a coach who has had Penn State's number. It was satisfying in the way that Penn State won: decisively and in total control. It was almost like they could do whatever they chose on both sides of the football.

Rowlff Dogg: The Iowa game has taken on extra meaning because they are have had their way with Penn State (JoePa). If I told you in 1993 that we'd have a losing Big Ten record against Iowa over 20 years, you'd think I was nuts. Iowa is the symbol of our underachievement since joining a conference. In that regard, Saturday's beatdown was extremely satisfying. However to consider an Iowa win as "most satisfying" is an acknowledgment of how far JoePa and his staff let this program fall over the past decade.

With Bill Belton back at full strength, what do you expect Penn State's rushing attack to look like the rest of the way? Will we see mostly Belton, or will we continue to put significant time into the power running game brought by Zach Zwinak?

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Bill: I think who we see will depend on the opponent and the game plan. That being said, I am hoping to see more of Belton this Saturday. I love Zwinak but when Belton is on the field with Allen Robinson and Kyle Carter, the Lions have three potential game breakers which gives Coach O'Brien more options and opponents more to worry about. I would much rather see ZZ in goal line, short yardage and as our closer against a gassed Buckeyes defense.

The Underdogs: I expect it to be a game-to-game decision, and ultimately a fluid situation, one-part game planning, one-part hot hand. We may go into a game thinking we need a speed back and go with Belton, but if it turns out Zwinak is THE right man for the job as demonstrated on the field in any given game, we'll lean that way. This staff has shown little patience for favoritism or petty personal feelings, instead focusing strictly on performance, which is an unpredictable thing itself.

J. Schnauzer: I think the running backs will still operate by committee. Each of these backs offer different looks for the defense, and with wildcat Matt McGloin scrambling for 26 yards against Iowa we've got a relative Collin Klein now. OK, maybe the last part is untrue...

(Ed. note - Obligatory addition..._)

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(Now back to your regularly scheduled programming)

Cari: I think it will be a mix of running backs, not quite RB-by-committee, but similar. On Saturday, in the first half it looked as though BOB tried out both Belton and Zwinak, and Belton was having more success-so he stuck with Billy until the game was well, well in hand. I think that'll be the case; he'll try both of them out, see who's getting better penetration of the opposing D, and will ride the hot hand, so to speak.


Braxton Miller appears to be available this weekend despite the rough hit he took on Saturday against Purdue. Will his level of play be affected? What can Penn State do to contain him and the new Ohio State offense?

Kevin: Braxton Miller may be a tough player, but I would like to see how he responds on the road after getting hit hard. I have seen him already come back from a tough blow this season to lead his team to a win on the road (Michigan State), but I suspect this week's environment could be a little different.

If healthy, I expect Miller to run for some yards just as he did last year against Penn State (over 100 rushing yards). For Penn State it will just be a matter of making sure Miller does not break a long run the way has shown to be capable of in his one and half season of work. Penn State does not typically give up those kind of plays so I would think they will be able to survive with a bend-don't-break approach to Miller and the Buckeyes offense. If this game comes down to needing Miller to beat you with his arm, then the advantage would seem to go to Penn State. Miller, I think, is still a better passer than Denard Robinson, but the defensive philsophy remains similar in wanting Miller to beat you through the air rather than on the ground.

Penn State is 2-0 against Denard Robinson and Braxton Miller.

The Underdogs: So many speculative questions. I'll ignore the injury as THE Ohio State medical staff appears to be doing, presume him to be 100% and approach the question as if it never happened. I'm not that particularly impressed with Miller. He's good yeah, but so is Denard. I find them both to be fairly one-dimensional and therefore defensible, albeit Meyer's offense is better tailored to Miller's skillset than Michigan's devolution away from RichRod's offense. He's capable of a big play at any time, but just as consistent in his inconsistency, with a penchant for bogging down the entire offense for halves at a time.

Rowlff Dogg: I really hope that Miller starts the game because I'm sure Roofball is going to see just how healthy he is. A less-than-100% Miller is going to be tested. If he makes some early mistakes, you can bet the crowd noise and intensity of Roofball will only compound the miscues. This game is a situation where I am thrilled to have Roof because we all know Tom Bradley would just sit back in his base defense and allow Miller to look like a Heisman contender.

Cari: I don't see how his play won't be affected, as he'll likely be more timid after a scary hit like that. But I'm not so sure it matters. Guiton is, by many accounts, a more accomplished passer, though a tad less mobile-which might even be worse for our defense, and our weak secondary. If we can limit (not completely contain) the big plays, I like our chances. We should know how that's going by the end of the first quarter.

Bill: Miller is an incredible athlete and an improved passer. That being said, he was doing nothing against Purdue before his injury and it was Kenny Guiton who led the Buckeyes to an inprobable victory. If Miller continues to struggle, we could see Guiton on Saturday. But I expect Miller to bounce back and make some big plays. The Nittany Lion defense has been playing lights out and should continue to do what they have been doing against read/option offenses. OSU is going to put points on the board but the defense should be able to hold Miller and the Buckeyes to 3-4 scores. Given the struggles of the OSU defense so far this year, that may not be enough. The X factor will be special teams and turnovers.

Carole: Did you watch the game and see the hits that guy took? Brutal. He may be cleared of any injuries but I can't imagine that he is 100%. I read that he is 'sore'. That being said, I admire these wonderful Braxton Miller and Denard Robinson types. They are smart and athletic and fun to watch. But when a team builds so much of their offense on one person, it is not hard to figure out what to do: try to contain that person and make the team one-dimensional. He personally accounts for half of the team's touchdowns. Miller and one other back are the rushing game. D. Smith and Stoneburner are the primary air targets. Miller's backup QB Guiton is pretty amazing but we have some tape on him too so there won't be any surprises there. He also is not as mobile going for 25 yards on 7 attempts with a net of sixteen. Mauti, Hodges, Carson, Hull, and Hill and company will be ready for Mr. Miller.


Predictions?

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Cari: I don't see a halftime meltdown this year like in 2010, and I expect an offensive performance much like the first half of that game. I expect a score on us in the first quarter, breaking that streak, but I also think we've got the momentum going into this game. I think it'll be the most our D has let up all year, but ultimately our offense will be too much for OSU's D line to contain on its own-34-27, good guys.

Kevin: I expect this one to be a tough defensive battle, as most games between these two programs tend to be. Overall I actually like Ohio State's offense slightly more than Penn State's, but I like Penn State's defense much more than Ohio State's. When it comes to coaching I have to believe that Bill O'Brien and his staff will once again have their team prepared for four quarters, which they have done an excellent job of recently, but I also would think that Urban Meyer and his loaded staff will have a game plan ready to go as well.

In the end this one comes down to how sophomore Braxton Miller handles the pressure on the road in one of the loudest stadiums he has played in. Ohio State was 1-4 on the road last season (1-5 including the bowl game), and while they have won their two road games this season, those victories were not easy to come by. I think Penn State jumps out to an early lead but has to fight hard to hang on for a tight one at home.

Penn State 21, Ohio State 20

The Underdogs: PSU will be THE victors. I expect a game similar to MSU-OSU, except unlike THE Michigan State university, PSU has an offense. 27-16

Rowlff Dogg: Penn State 37, Ohio State 20. Suck it, Urban.

J Schnauzer: Penn State 33, Ohio State 21.

Bill: This game comes down to emotion. As evidenced by the surge in ticket sales and the record setting number of tents in ahem...Nittanyville, there is a level of excitement for this game that is almost unparalleled. The whiteout, the winning streak and a hated, undefeated nationally ranked rival have contributed to the excitement but lets face it, this game is Penn State's reckoning. Part of me wants to say Ohio State is walking into a hornet's nest. But then I think about the Ohio game where the team came out gangbusters but could not maintain the intensity level in the second half. If the team keeps the crowd in the game and plays for sixty minutes, I think they come out on top. If they go into the locker room at the half with a two score lead and come out flat, Happy Valley will get real quiet, real fast. My prediction is the seniors on this team will not let that happen; Penn State 34 - Ohio State 24.

Carole: Penn State 28, Ohio State 17


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