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Tale of the Tape: Penn State

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This is the game that everyone has been waiting for (well, this one and Michigan) as it is the latest in the line of tests for the Buckeyes to show if this is a team of the ages or a team that has just really benefitted from a mediocre schedule.

Let's be real here for a minute, what Ohio State has done in terms of offensive and defensive efficiency would be difficult to accomplish against any sort of schedule, especially one that has proven to be surprisingly good with all three non-conference opponents now bowl-eligible, and Indiana team that has proven to be much better than expected and a thorough and convincing win over Wisconsin, a team that is still very much in the mix for the Big Ten West.

Sure, Nebraska is not very good this year and Northwestern and Michigan State are worse. That is not Ohio State's fault, you cannot control who the B1G computer spits out on the schedule. You just have to play the teams that you are given and hope for the best there.

In comes Penn State, a team that has looked really good at times in wiping out Maryland (when the Terps were still a hot commodity), held an overmatched Purdue team to just a tick above 100 yards of total offense and outlasted a Michigan team that out-gained the Nittany Lions but could not outscore the home team.

But on the other side, this is also the same Penn State team that messed around and nearly lost to Pitt, threw three picks in a loss to Minnesota and has squeaked out five wins by just one score along the way in games that honestly should have been decided by a wider margin.

For anyone following along, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have played their last three games well within that one-score bubble with Ohio State coming up short in 2016 after a blocked field goal stole defeat out of the jaws of victory and then Ohio State returned the favor in the next two seasons by erasing two-score fourth quarter deficits to win each game by one point.

It is fascinating to look back at the Tales of the Tape from those years to see how each team really stacked up (2016, 2017, 2018) but not entirely relevant to this year as the rosters continue to turnover and knowing that this 2019 Ohio State team probably is the best of the bunch and might be one of the best Ohio State teams in program history, but we won't be able to really discuss that until all the games are done and we see if this team can cross the finish line or gets tripped up along the way.

Ryan Day has been saying this game is really one where the talented between the two teams is "equated" but we are going to take a deeper look as we go to the Tale of the Tape to break things down.

Ohio State Offense vs. Penn State Defense
Ohio State Stat Rank Penn State Stat Rank

Rushing Offense

287.4 YPG

4th

Rushing Defense

75.9 YPG

4th

Passing Offense

254.3 YPG

45th

Pass Eff. Defense

120.70

30th

Scoring Offense

51.5 PPG

1st

Scoring Defense

13.5 PPG

7th

Ohio State QB/WR/TE vs. Penn State Defensive Backs

In the last three games against Penn State, the Buckeyes have had some pretty strong quarterbacking numbers with Dwayne Haskins passing for 270 yards and three scores last season while JT Barrett put on one of the all-time performances int he 4th quarter of the 2017 game and threw for a 33/39, 328 yard game and four touchdowns. 2016 was not quite as sharp but he still was 28/43 for 246 yards and a score. The point here is that Ohio State has had some solid numbers throwing the ball and it might be easy to just assume that Penn State's defense would lock down Ohio State in these games and keep them from moving the ball through the air. Well, they have not. Justin Fields will now get his turn and he is coming off of his first 300-yard passing game of his career against Rutgers in a two-plus (one drive to be exact) quarters outing. In terms of teams that Ohio State has faced, this won't be Ohio State's toughest opponent by way of passing efficiency defense, it won't even be top-three, Penn State will be No. 4 on the list of foes with Wisconsin being the toughest at No. 3 nationally (Ohio State is No. 2). A quick rewind will show that the Badgers did hold the throwing game largely in check with a 12/22 day for 167 yards and two scores, but Ohio State also did run for 264 yards and put up 38 points in a game where they could have done more if the situation called for it. The Buckeyes will bring back three of the four leading receivers from the 2018 game with running back JK Dobbins as well as KJ Hill and Binjimen Victor. Chris Olave was not really in the plans during the meeting last year and promises to be a match-up nightmare for the Nittany Lions. Hill has been a tough foe for Penn State over the past two seasons with 18 receptions and more than 160 yards combined in those two outings. There certainly is a lot of opportunity here for the Buckeyes and the necessity to find success in the air and loosen up the box as Penn State is much better against the run than the pass.

Penn State has not been very good against the pass this year and that is really coming home to roost as of late with a pair of 300-plus yard outings against them with Minnesota (loss) and Indiana (win). In terms of yardage, Penn State has gone up against three offenses who have thrown for more yards than the Buckeyes have. But when you look at efficiency (and you should, because none of those three passings teams are within 150 rushing yards per game of Ohio State, once again showing the balance of this Ohio State offense, the Buckeyes are No. 4 in the nation in passing efficiency and Ohio State's 38 passing touchdowns are 15 more than anyone else in the Big Ten. It is not a case that Penn State is young in the secondary with guys like Tariq Castro-Fields, John Reid, Garrett Taylor and Lamont Wade back there, but they just have not been as effective as they were earlier in the season for whatever reason and teams are starting to figure out how to really attack the secondary. Of course a lot of this too is predicated by the pass rush or lack thereof as of late and no matter how good the coverage is, it will eventually break down if you give the quarterback too much time. Even with the issues against the pass, the Nittany Lions have done a good job of not allowing many points to come by way of the touchdown strike with only one game where an opponent had more than one, it was Minnesota, and the Gophers had three and went on to win the game.

Ohio State Running Backs vs. Penn State Linebackers

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