Penn State Football: 5 Advantages Nittany Lions Have over Ohio State
If it wasn't for some serious NCAA sanctions, this Penn State vs. Ohio State matchup might have some serious implications behind it (Big Ten championship implications, for one).
But thanks to "Tattoogate" and the Jerry Sandusky scandal, this is merely an exhibition game, right?
This is Penn State vs. Ohio State! There's nothing exhibition about it. Both teams have something to prove, even if there's no postseason implications attached. This is their bowl game, and it's certainly going to play like it.
So we know the Buckeyes are undefeated. They'd be a serious BCS contender if the NCAA hadn't cracked down.
But what about the Nittany Lions? What do they have going for them as they head into this heated rivalry?
Let's take a look.
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This probably goes without saying, especially since it's Beaver Stadium.
No team wants to travel and play in Happy Valley. It's just not fun. And when you're the hated Buckeyes, it's even worse.
If you think Nittany Lions fans aren't going to be chomping at the bit for this game because their team is playing a "meaningless" game in many respects, you're far from right. You're nowhere close.
Beaver Stadium is going to be rocking from start to finish, and if Penn State gets up early, even by a little, that could be all the difference. The fans could carry this team to victory.
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Five wins, each one bigger than the one before it; that's what quarterback Matt McGloin and Co. have going for them right now.
Penn State is riding a ridiculous high. The defense is a wall, and the offense is mistake-free, efficient and incredibly balanced. Coach Bill O'Brien has everything clicking right now, and the team is buying in to his philosophy.
They know what this game means to them and the fanbase, and the winning streak only adds to their level of confidence. If they can keep that confidence at the right level—not too cocky and not to anxious—they'll be golden.
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Speaking of defense, Linebacker U is going to play a huge role in this game.
Led by standout Michael Mauti and his three interceptions (tied for second in the conference), the Penn State defense has held opponents to just 15.7 points per game. That's 13th in the nation, in case you weren't aware.
While Mauti has half the team's picks on the year—which is just middle of the pack in the Big Ten—Penn State is second in getting the quarterback to the ground (18 sacks). They know how to stop opponents, even if they don't force the most turnovers.
This may be Ohio State's toughest test on offense thus far. They're 10th in the country in rushing, while their passing game is a little suspect at times. The Nittany Lions have the front seven to stall the Buckeyes run game and force quarterback Braxton Miller to win the game.
Keep in mind that Miller is banged up with a neck injury.
If the home team can get to Miller early, things could swing dramatically in their favor.
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If you look up efficiency and consistency in the dictionary, Matt McGloin's picture should be plastered right next to both words.
He's completing 62.5 percent of his passes (not spectacular) with 14 touchdowns to just two interceptions for a 136.8 efficiency rating. He's solid and steady, working a methodical offense down the field game after game.
The Nittany Lions need another solid performance against a very good Ohio State defense. The Buckeyes haven't faced a passer playing this consistently all season.
He keeps the offense composed and is the unquestioned leader of O'Brien's squad. If he can keep that going, Penn State has a major advantage.
Third Down and Penalties
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Warning: A lot of numbers below.
Penn State is one of the most efficient teams on third down in the conference—trailing only Michigan—with a 45.7 percent conversion rate on third down in 116 attempts. Ohio State is close behind (43.9 on 107 attempts).
O'Brien has proven to be a rather gutsy play-caller, having his offense attempt 23 fourth downs this season, converting a whopping 14 of them.
The other key is the Nittany Lions don't make bone-headed mistakes. The team is third in the Big Ten with just 69 penalties for 650 yards.
Want to know who's last on that list? Ohio State—with 106 penalties—for a grand total of 923 yards.
Advantage: Penn State.