October 24, 2013

Tale of the Tape: Penn State

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Head Coach:

Bill O'Brien

2012 Record: 8-4 Big Ten


State College (Pa.)

Kickoff: 8:00 pm EDT Television: ABC Sports Location: Ohio Stadium (102,329)

When Ohio St. has the ball...

  • Rushing Defense: 117.7 Ypg. (21st)

  • Passing Eff. Defense: 118.55 (36th)

  • Scoring Defense: 23.7 Ppg. (48th)
  • Rushing Offense: 279.6 Ypg. (11th)

  • Passing Offense: 213.6 Ypg. (81st)

  • Scoring Offense: 45.0 Ppg. (7th)

  • Penn State Defensive Backs

    Ohio State Skill Positions (QB/WR/TE)
    Safety Adrian Amos should be a familiar name for the Nittany Lions but the rest of the secondary could look a little different with fellow safety Malcolm Willis being listed as an -OR- and the corners both checking in as true sophomores with Jordan Lucas and Trevor Williams. Teams can pass against Penn State, Indiana did it with Nate Sudfeld (321 yards, 2 TDs) and that school up north did it with Devin Gardner to a certain extent (240 yards, 3 TD). Neither of those offenses have a running game like Ohio State to keep the defense off balance so the Buckeyes could be in the best position and look more to what UCF was able to do against this defense early in the season (Blake Bortles 20/27, 288 yards 3 TD). Penn State's pass defense does have the ability to take the ball away with seven interceptions on the season and having seven different players with an interception but there really isn't that dominant player in the pass defense that teams need to stay away from and don't look for Ohio State to try and shy away from who it is in the passing game with deep shots. Corey Brown may be from the Keystone State but has done nothing in his career against Penn State with only one reception for ten yards in three previous games against the Nittany Lions. The tandem of Philly Brown and Devin Smith will need to have a big game for the Buckeyes as they look to stretch the field with Braxton Miller. Tight end Jeff Heuerman had a big game against Iowa with five receptions and could be a key contributor in the offense if Penn State looks to sell out in stopping the tandem of Brown and Smith. Ultimately everyone is still going to focus on Miller and what he will be capable of doing against the defense. Buckeyes would never want to take advice from "TSUN" but they had a lot of success with hitting Devin Funchess when the two teams last played to the tune of 112 yards and two touchdowns on just four receptions. Could the Buckeyes look to follow suit and break some tendencies in this game. If not there is always a great feeling of comfort with having a top run game as well.

    Penn State Linebackers

    Ohio State Running Backs
    Linebacker Mike Hull is a native Ohioan that made his way over to Penn State and would love to get another win at Ohio Stadium and the team's run defense has been pretty good to date but once again has not faced a run offense like Ohio State. Storm Johnson from UCF was the closest back they have faced to Carlos Hyde and Johnson ran for 117 yards and a score on only 17 carries. The Nittany Lions have given up six touchdowns on the ground and Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson had a pair of them when the Hoosiers shocked the Nittany Lions to start the B1G season. All three PSU LBs are north of 225-pounds and can move but do they have the type of dominant linebacker that they have had in years past? The early returns say that this is not the year for them at that position and teams have been able to have some success when they have actually decided to run the ball against PSU. Both Johnson and Devin Gardner have eclipsed the 100-yard mark against the defense and games against Eastern Michigan and Kent State really aid PSU's overall defensive numbers where neither team had any success whatsoever in running the ball. Even lowly Syracuse was able to punch it in twice against PSU. Penn State knows it is going to get a healthy dose of Carlos Hyde and Hyde is perfectly fine with that. The big back is coming off of a stretch of big games but would like to get things started earlier this time around rather than waiting until the second half to start finding pay dirt. In the past two games Hyde has rushed 50 times for 317 yards and five touchdowns during that stretch, all five scores coming in the second half. In that stretch the other running backs (excluding Miller) have rushed for 41 yards combined (not including team rushes or Cameron Johnston's botched fake punt in that total. The return of Jordan Hall and added emergence of Dontre Wilson give the Buckeyes several other weapons to look at using but when it comes down to it the ball is going to No. 34 when the chips are on the table and if not it is being held by Miller who also rushed for more than 100 yards against Iowa, a team who had not given up a rushing TD until facing Ohio State. Now this doesn't mean that things will be easy sledding for Ohio State, games are always hard fought in the trenches between these two teams but on paper it appears that Ohio State holds a nice advantage in this matchup.

    Penn State Defensive Line


    Ohio State Offensive Line
    Penn State gave itself the title of "Linebacker U" (and that still can be up for debate among many college football fans but you have to like some of the defensive linemen that have come through the Penn State program as well. DaQuan Jones is a big force up at his defensive tackle position and the Nittany Lions do have some experience to go along with size up front when it comes to the war in the trenches. As a defense the Nittany Lions have 14 sacks and C.J. Olaniyan leads the team with 3.5 from his end position. Both he and Deion Barnes (who is listed as an -OR- in the depth chart) are smaller and quicker defensive ends (not in the mold of Ohio State's traditional defensive end spot that Joey Bosa or Adolphus Washington would hold) but have the ability to be very disruptive and can make momentum changing types of plays. It wasn't too many years ago that people would look at Ohio State's offensive line as a unit that never could live up to its lofty potential. This year it appears that Marcus Hall and the rest of his line mates have finally reached that goal because they are playing as well as a unit as can be remembered in some time. The Ohio State run game ranks in the upper echelon nationally while keeping Braxton Miller mostly untouched during most games (Miller does extend so many plays that he is going to get hit just by virtue of the style of offense and no line could keep him upright forever). Sophomore starter Taylor Decker seems to have things slowing down for him and after a rough start is starting to come into his own as well and was named an honorable mention "champion" this past weekend. The Buckeyes will need to play within themselves if the Nittany Lions look to send heat.

    When Penn State has the ball...

  • Rushing Offense: 152.7 Ypg. (79th)

  • Passing Offense: 283.7 Ypg. (26th)

  • Scoring Offense: 33.3 Ppg. (43rd)

  • Rushing Defense: 92.4 Ypg. (7th)

  • Passing Eff. Defense: 130.47 (71st)

  • Scoring Defense: 19.9 Ppg. (22nd)

  • Penn State Skill Positions (QB/WR/TE)

    Ohio State Defensive Backs
    This is honestly where Penn State holds the edge with a passing game that can move the ball against a pass defense that seems to be in a constant state of malaise. Christian Hackenberg has come in and pretty much locked up the B1G Freshman of the Year award with his play and has multiple targets to go to but none better than Allen Robinson who already has 705 yards on the season and five touchdowns. Penn State will use a lot of the three tight end formation, a formation that gave Ohio State issues against Iowa because they had not seen it from them on tape before. Ohio State now will be ready for Penn State's use of it but Penn State has had it as part of their package all along and has better pieces to employ it. Jesse James and Kyle Carter have combined for 28 receptions and average around 12 yards per reception. Don't sleep on receiver Brandon Felder who is second on the team with 22 receptions and has a pair of TDs to his credit. The Buckeyes saw what could have been one of the worst case scenarios happen last week when Bradley Roby was ejected. The targeting ejection penalty will be argued about as long as it is in existence but with Roby off the field the Ohio State pass defense went through some rough moments in the first half against Iowa and even had a bad moment in the second half when Iowa took a pass to the tight end to the house from 85-yards out. Roby will be eligible for the entire Penn State game with his penalty happening in the first half and his disqualification has been fully served. The Buckeyes now will have to figure out what to do with a Penn State passing offense that is a lot better on paper than Iowa's after the Iowa Hawkeyes passed for 245 yards on Ohio State. Doran Grant has had a good season so far but with the issues of the entire unit it has been overshadowed by the shortcoming of the unit. But have no fear, the Ohio State pass defense seems to score more often than not against Penn State with a "pick six" in six of the last 11 games (dating back to 2002).

    Penn State Running Backs

    Ohio State Linebackers
    The Penn State run game has been a 1-1a punch of Bill Belton and Zach Zwinak this season with each back racking up more than 350 yards each (Zwinak - 393, Belton 369). Zwinak has been the hammer when it comes to short yardage runs in the red zone and has eight touchdowns on the year, five of them coming from either the one or two-yard line. Belton is a little more capable of breaking off the big run and his three touchdowns have come from 1, 5 and 51 yards on the season. Hackenberg is no threat to run the ball and his one rushing touchdown on the year came against Michigan to send the game to overtime from inside the one-yard line. The Buckeyes will look to take away the Penn State rushing game and this is easily the best rushing defense that Penn State will have faced but games are not judged by the stats alone and one missed assignment could cost the Buckeyes with each Penn State running back or even 3rd stringer Akeel Lynch who has seen limited action this season.

    The Ohio State run defense gave up an atypical 130 yards against Iowa last weekend and while no one back really got to them it was a combination of three backs that eventually started to pick up some yardage. Even with giving up 130 yards however the Buckeyes did keep Iowa out of the end zone via the ground and that will be the goal once again against Penn State. Ryan Shazier had a "pick six" against Penn State last season in Happy Valley that finally gave Ohio State some much needed momentum as the Buckeyes took control of the game. Curtis Grant is coming off of a solid game last week but will he, Joshua Perry and the rest of the linebackers be able to handle the three tight end formation of Penn State when they employ it? The Buckeyes were able to shut down the one-two of Melvin Gordon and James White when Wisconsin came to town so it would seem that conventional wisdom would give a good edge to Ohio State in this "game within the game".

    Penn State Offensive Line
    Ohio State Defensive Line
    Penn State is blessed with another solid offensive line that is deep in experience including guard John Urschel who is a fifth year senior along with center Ty Howle. This is not the "biggest" line that Ohio State will face (that honor always seems to go to Wisconsin) and unlike most seasons this line has not had a great deal of success in protecting the quarterback in allowing 15 sacks through six games. Some of that has to be chalked up to a freshman quarterback but that is still not something you would expect to see from a Penn State team. This line is very good however inside the red zone as evidenced by Belton and Zwinak's numbers inside the five-yard line. Penn State gave up four sacks against Michigan and one against Indiana... will the Buckeyes try and send pressure to rattle the young quarterback and will the line be able to do anything about it? Ohio State's defensive line did not record a sack last week and only had one tackle for loss (Michael Bennett) but that doesn't mean that Ohio State's line did not play well. We did find out this week that Michael Hill is injured and may not be back this season. Tommy Schutt returned to the lineup for Ohio State and has slid into the role once held by Hill. The Buckeye front has had a lot of opportunity to rush three and four to mixed results but will this be a game where the coaches put an extra emphasis on getting to the QB and knocking him down as a true freshman? I would expect the answer to be yes and increased pressure could be just what the doctor ordered for a beleaguered pass defense if the Buckeye front seven can disrupt plays before they ever are able to form. This could be a big game for Noah Spence from the Viper position.

    Special teams matchups...

  • Net Punting: 35.78 Avg (87th)

  • Punt Returns: 10.38 Yds/Ret (40th)

  • Kickoff Returns: 21.67 Avg. (63rd)

  • Field Goals: 11-15 (73%)

  • Net Punting: 40.00 Avg. (13th)

  • Punt Returns: 12.43 Yds/Ret (30th)

  • Kickoff Return: 23.62 Avg. (31st)

  • Field Goals: 7-7 (100%)

  • Penn State Special Teams

    Ohio State Special Teams
    Penn State's special teams haven't put up any great numbers to this point. Punter Alex Butterworth and the punt team is toward the bottom third of the NCAA in net punting and if this game ends up being a close game the Buckeyes could benefit from that. Kicker Sam Ficken had a rough start to his career but has been much more steady this season and has been busy with 15 attempts. Drew Basil saw his most action of the year last week with a couple of FG attempts and a couple of big tackles on kickoffs. Cameron Johnston did not attempt a punt against Iowa. The Buckeyes have had success in the special teams against Penn State in the past, could Corey Brown or Jordan Hall or even Dontre Wilson be in line for a highlight worthy play?


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