Hey, you know what? There's a football game tomorrow. Penn State hosts Ohio University in the 2012 season opener. Time to preview this sucker...
(0-0) vs. (0-0)
Kickoff: 12 p.m. Beaver Stadium, University Park, PA
The Line: PSU -6
TV: ESPN Dave Pasch (p-by-p), Brian Griese (analyst), Tom Rinaldi and Mark Schwarz (sideline)
Weather: 80 degrees, sun & clouds.
PENN STATE RECORD: 0-0, 1st year
OVERALL RECORD: Same
VS. OHIO: First Meeting
OHIO RECORD: 50-40, 8th year
OVERALL RECORD: 108-59, 14th year
VS. PENN STATE: 1-1 (both games as Nebraska HC)
NOW THE FUN PART
Ohio Offense vs PSU Defense -
BBDS No More... QB Tyler Tettleton is just the kind of guy Penn State used to hate playing against. Remember all those Northwestern quarterbacks that would dink-and-dunk, then scramble for 8, 10, 12 yards all the way from one end zone to the other? Tettleton is that kind of quarterback. The thing is, Penn State isn't that kind of defense this year. The sit-back, soft zone coverage of old, which was notorious for getting torn up by mid-range spread-run attacks, has been replaced by an attacking, mixed-coverage defense inserted by Ted Roof. If you're interested in on-field story lines this Saturday, watch carefully to see how different the Penn State defense schemes against the Bobcat shotgun-run offense.
LBU in the Spotlight... Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges will be the attack dogs for Penn State's front seven, which should be the best group on the field. They'll get some help from the front four. I wouldn't be surprised to see someone like Jordan Hill or Deion Barnes emerge as a surprise defensive MVP of the game. The Ohio offensive line is experienced (89 career starts), but still a MAC line. Tettleton will have to get one of two things to happen every play: Get the ball out of the pocket within 2 seconds; or, get himself out of the pocket within 2 seconds. Anything inside that pocket for longer will likely get whacked by someone wearing a blue jersey.
Cover Up... The back four for Penn State will be thin, but not nearly as troubled as portrayed this off-season. Ohio will be working without their top two receivers from last year, while Penn State should have plenty of help from the pass rush and underneath coverage by the linebackers. It would be nice to see at least one Penn State defensive back emerge as both a leader and playmaker. My early money would go toward Adrian Amos or Malcolm Willis.
PSU Offense vs Ohio Defense -
Mac, or MAC? Which mediocre unit will have the edge? It's much more of a toss-up than expected. Penn State is still installing Bill O'Brien's offensive scheme, while Ohio's defense isn't nearly as potent on the field as its offense. Quick pick says Penn State should be able to score more than a few times on the Bobcat D. Matt McGloin has the benefit of working with a staff that actually wants the quarterback running the offense. Even with the loss of Silas Redd and Justin Brown, one has to think spreading the ball around will help mitigate some of the issues stemming from missing those two offensive 2011 stat leaders. Sophomore Allen Robinson will be McGloin's top wide receiver, but I'm quite excited to finally see how the tight ends are utilized in this new offense. One of the big enigmas will be RB Bill Belton's performance. The Ohio defensive line is very good, but not exactly the Bama front line.
Taking it in Stride... Ohio suffered a huge blow last week when its top defensive player, CB Travis Carrie was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. Carrie was preseason first-team All-MAC. The Bobcat secondary was easily the best in the MAC before Carrie's injury. It should still be decent, but nothing close to what it would have been with such a strong performer. Insult to injury? Carrie was also Ohio's top returning punt returner. Before the loss of Carrie, the big hole in this defense was the graduation of LB Noah Keller. Now that two of the top Bobcat defenders are gone, it will be up to LBs Jelani Woseley (53 tackles), Keith Moore (35 tackles, 4.0 TFL), and senior Alphonso Lewis (64 tackles, 5.0 TFL) to pick up the slack.
Special Teams -
Matt Weller is the best kicker in the MAC. Penn State lost its best kicker to transfer. It's not a stretch to say that if this game comes down to special teams kicking, the MAC team has more than just a chance. The official Penn State depth chart also fails to list return specialists, while Ohio is missing Carrie. At least the Nittany Lions have the benefit this year of a real special teams coach, something painfully missing over the last few years.
No game has been tougher to preview. Ohio is a good, experienced team with a good quarterback and great coach. The Bobcats could go undefeated if they win in State College tomorrow. Penn State... well, I have no freaking idea what to really say. We can make educated guesses, but no one has really gotten a good view of what O'Brien & Co. can do with this team against another, actual opponent. The spread is six points, which seems about right. I'd love to predict this will be a typical Penn State opener--sloppy, but convincing victory. I honestly can't say that about this one.
This one will probably come down to McGloin being good, but not great, and the defensive front seven smothering the Ohio offense.
Penn State 27 - Ohio Bobcats 20
Parting Quote, from CB Stephon Morris: "We just get chill-bumps every week since we started [camp]. Just hearing the Blue Band playing outside after practice. It's just a feeling you can't explain, just putting on the pads Saturday and getting after it."
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