Penn State's football team has issues at the moment, mainly on the offensive line, and their opponent this Saturday night in Beaver Stadium may possess a unit capable of tearing that line to smithereens. Yes, the Ohio State Buckeyes and their front seven, led by probable All-American Joey Bosa, will likely not allow the Nittany Lion offense to even shift into neutral. Now, Penn State's stout defense should give Ohio State's offense some problems of it's own, but the prevailing thought (especially in Vegas) seems to be that the 107k strong dressed in white will witness a beatdown of sorts.
Ok, so this isn't a slam dunk outcome. Maybe the offensive line's woes will magically disappear! Maybe Christian Hackenberg will be able to tear apart a good secondary with time to throw! Maybe the three-headed backfield will find its footing! Maybe I won't get drunk while I watch this game! The possibilities are endless.
But we're relatively smart people, and we know that this probably won't end well. And all things considered, this probably shouldn't change our opinion of Penn State's coaching staff, but strange things happen after a loss. As James Franklin put it after the win at Rutgers, "[w]inning minimizes issues.Losing magnifies issues. The issues are still there." That magnification happens on the Internet, believe it or not, so maybe just chill out and stay offline (except for Black Shoe Diaries, sillypants) when the inevitable happens. At the very least, avoid message board threads that are titled after other coaches that aren't at Penn State. It'll change you.
This Season - Ohio State: 5-1 (2-0); Irrational Thoughts of Firings: Surprisingly Many Considering It's Everyone's First Year
The Buckeyes were all but written off as playoff contenders once Braxton Miller was deemed out for the season in August, and perhaps even more so after losing to Virginia Tech under the lights in Columbus in week two. But Urban Meyer's squad has rebounded to win their last four contests, and back-to-back dates with Michigan State and Minnesota could go a long way towards determining the B1G champion.
Seriously. James Franklin can't even get through a season without NittanyJim11* calling for his head three times. That's a lot of pressure that CJF doesn't need right now.
*NittanyJim11 is a fictional username. Any resemblance or likeness to other premium message board users is purely coincidental
When Miller went down, common sense pointed to Christian Hackenberg becoming the B1G's top signal-caller, but that honor has remained in Columbus with J.T. Barrett. The redshirt freshman has thrown 20 TDs and just five picks through six starts and is starting to pick up some cheeky Heisman buzz, though I did find this interesting - Barrett's had three great games against Power 5 teams: against Maryland (ranked 86th nationally against the pass) Rutgers (98th), and Cincinnati (110th). Penn State's secondary, currently ranked 52nd in passing yards against, should give Barrett a bit more trouble.
Though it's not as though Meyer will be hurting for options in the backfield. Ezekiel Elliot has found his footing since the VA Tech loss (you'll notice a pattern here) to the tune of 6.4 yards per carry and Curtis Samuel has been plenty serviceable when called upon.
If Ohio State does put up big numbers on offense and you would like to suggest on this website that Bob Shoop should lose his job, just know that the BSD staff will not condone that opinion. Consider the name of our weekly non-live radio show, the Black Shoop Oddcast.
This is where it really starts to get scary for Hackenberg. Ohio State's defensive front averages 6.7 TFLs per game; Penn State allows 7.6 per game. Yes, I just heard you gulp. Michael Bennett gained praise from Franklin at Wednesday's press conference, along with Bosa, of course, who has racked up 5.5 sacks in six games, behind only Iowa's Drew Ott and Sparty's Ed Davis atop the conference. While the front line is certainly the at the forefront of Penn State's concerns, the Buckeyes sport plethora of former four and five-star recruits in the linebacking corps and secondary that should keep John Donovan up at night. Doran Grant and Eli Apple have combined for seven pass breakups and four picks, and weakside linebacker Joshua Perry leads the team in tackles by a wide margin at 7.5 per game.
(says nothing about John Donovan in fear of the wrath of Devon)
It's not so much a weakness as it is a non-strength, but Ohio State hasn't had a game-changing moment in the return game so far. Ranked 45th nationally in average kick return yardage at just over 22 yards per return, Dontre Wilson could be primed to break one this week (this is a backwards reverse jinx attempt). Kicker Sean Nuernberger is 6/9 on the season, nice.
Last Week: 56-17 W vs. Big Ten Powerhouse Rutgers
Rutgers has proven to be a reasonably decent B1G squad that nearly took down Penn State, and Ohio State straight dismantled them last Saturday. Perhaps the only promising Rutgers statistic that the Lions can hope to emulate is time of possession, a battle which the Scarlet Knights won with their offense on the field for 31 minutes. Desmon Peoples was able to rush for 83 yards, though PSU probably can't count on rushing numbers like that against the same front seven.
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Photo credit: Jamie Sabau