Penn State Football: 7 Keys to Winning the Ohio Game
Penn State will open their 2012 season Saturday afternoon against Ohio, and it will hardly be a game to look past for a number of reasons.
Penn State's offense will look for young players to fill key spots in a new offensive style.
Ohio is a MAC favorite and more than capable of causing some problems for a secondary replacing four starters.
Penn State is not known to be a fast starter when it comes to offense.
And oh yes, off-field emotions from a dismal offseason will gather for an afternoon and look to find a release in sports.
What will the keys to victory be for Penn State on Saturday, in a season when wins and losses ultimately mean nothing? Let's take a look.
1. Bring Pressure to Tyler Tettleton
It sounds so simple in philosophy, but it could be a worthy challenge for Penn State's defensive line. Tyler Tettleton passed for 3,308 yards and 28 touchdowns last season, while only throwing 10 interceptions with a completion percentage of 64.2.
Tettleton will be protected by right guard Eric Herman, who did not allow a sack last season. If Tettleton has time to work in the pocket and find an open receiver, he could do some damage against a Penn State secondary looking to replace every starter form 2011.
2. Who Covers Donte Foster?
Ohio's Donte Foster may not have been a top threat in 2011, but with the departure of two leading receivers, the 2012 season will be Foster's turn to become the primary target for Ohio's passing game. With Penn State's secondary looking for some new life after losing all four starters from last season, this will be a challenging task to open the season.
3. Keep Things Simple
Penn State will be breaking out a new offensive philosophy this week against Ohio, with Bill O'Brien looking to breathe new life in to the system. But how much will he show in week one on the job? The answer is probably not a whole lot.
Penn State has an experienced Matt McGloin under center, but a number of young players are looking to take over some key positions, most notably in the wide receiver spots. Penn State's offense may be more dynamic than it has been in recent years, but it could be one that gets better as the season continues. Do not expect the full bag of tricks this weekend...
4. Don't Be Afraid to Show a Few Wrinkles
Hey, just because you don't want to show the lady sawed in half, doesn't mean you have to hold back the rabbit in the hat. That is to say, while it may be best suited to keep the offense somewhat scaled back this weekend, there should be no hesitation to try and pull a dynamic play along the way to keep everyone on their toes.
In fact, don't be surprised if we see one big play attempt early on.
5. Protect Matt McGloin
From what we have seen in recent seasons, Penn State's quarterbacks need better protection. Ohio's defense picked off opposing QBs 15 times last season, and McGloin can be prone to a mistake when trying too hard to force something. Protecting him can help with some other keys of course, including being able to keep things simple.
McGloin is not the type of player who can sustain plays with his mobility, so the less he has to wiggle around, the better for Penn State.
6. Find a Go-To Receiver
Without Justin Brown (transferred to Oklahoma) and Devon Smith (dismissed, transferred to Marshall), Penn State's passing game is in dire need of new faces to look for catching the football. Matt McGloin can have all the time in the world to work with, but if he does not have a receiver capable of hauling in the football when thrown in his direction, what would it matter?
Alex Kenney, Shawney Kersey and Allen Robinson are all names to watch at wide receiver. With so much uncertainty about how the passing game will develop, will they ease the tension or add to the frustrations one week in to the season?
7. Handle the Emotions
Saturday's season opener at Beaver Stadium will be unlike any before it, and for obvious reasons. A new head coach leading a new-look program amid a constant cloud of controversy hovering above it. All Bill O'Brien can do is focus on what he is in control of, but the raw emotions that will fill Beaver Stadium may be unavoidable Saturday afternoon in the first home game since Jerry Sandusky was found guilty of multiple accounts of child sex abuse and Joe Paterno succumbed to a battle with lung cancer.
It all comes down to football of course, and the coaching staff should have the team focused on that as expected, but how easy will it be for the players to keep those haunting images and emotions from surfacing? It may be easier said than done, but perhaps when the game kicks off, nothing else will matter for 60 minutes. And that's OK.
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast, managing editor of Nittany Lions Den and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, Facebook and Google+.