When THE Ohio State University plays Penn State, it's rarely what it looks like on paper. This game tends to be a border war, made even bigger by Ohio State's recent success with recruiting in Penn State's turf.
During the Jim Tressel era, Ohio State has the edge with a 6-3 record, and the Buckeyes are 11-6 against Penn State since they joined the Big Ten in 1993. On paper, Ohio State should blow out the Nittany Lions at home. Is it more complicated than that? Let's take a quick look.
Penn State has played their best football over their past three weeks against Minnesota, Michigan and Northwestern. Not coincidentally, sophomore walk-on, Matt McGloin was inserted at quarterback, and seemingly righted a ship that was quickly going down with freshman quarterback Rob Bolden at the helm.
McGloin is everything that is advertised, which isn't much in terms of talent. He's not blessed with a strong arm, and isn't known as a running quarterback (although teammates swear he's fast), but he understands his restraints, and does a nice job playing within himself.
Does that mean McGloin is a "restrained" quarterback? Not a chance.
McGloin is about as overconfident as they come. When talking about moving the ball against OSU, the walk-on said, "We are going to be able to move the ball, especially with the wideouts we have. I don't think anyone else in the Big Ten has the playmakers we have."
No, this kid doesn't seem to be your average, everyday walk-on. The bottom line with McGloin? He hasn't faced Ohio State yet. He does have seven TDs vs. only one interception this year. Most of those stats come against some of the worst pass defenses in the country (Michigan and Northwestern). That will change against Ohio State.
In the backfield, Evan Royster leads the Nittany Lions after rushing for 134 yards on 25 carries against Northwestern. While it appears that Royster is picking up steam, it's also worth noting that against top rush defenses in Alabama and Illinois, he was stopped cold. Silas Redd may be the guy to look out for, as he rushed for 131 yards in only 11 carries against the Wildcats last week.
Derek Moye is McGloin's favorite receiver, and will likely be the first guy he looks to today. Half of his overall completions were to Moye. 6'6" receiver Brett Brackett may be the guy that gives the Buckeyes the most trouble underneath. He presents Ohio State with obvious matchup issues; with Ohio State focused on the run he could find openings. Devon Smith is a small and shifty slot receiver, and could also be looked at to take the pressure off the run game.
On the defensive side of the ball, the linebackers are, of course, the key. However, this Nittany Lions group isn't nearly as talented as past season. Senior LB Chris Colasanti leads the defense in tackles, and redshirt sophomore LB Michael Mauti is coming off a week in which he was named co-defensive player of the week. Overall, this unit seems to be middling at best, and they are terrible in the red zone, giving up points over 90 percent of the time.
Ohio State will likely attack the Nittany Lions defense. Expect the Ohio State offensive line to get a lot of push, and look for Terrelle Pryor to have an outstanding game both passing and running. Pryor has been excellent of late, albeit against weak teams. Still, Pryor may be 100 percent for the first time in weeks, and this should lead to big things offensively.
The Nittany Lions have a suspect secondary, so look for Ohio State to run behind a rejuvenated Boom Herron early, then go deep once it opens up. Dane Sanzenbacher and Devier Posey should be able to eat up the Penn State zone, with Pryor doing the most damage moving out of the pocket.
While Ohio State's secondary is a continued concern, look for Cameron Heyward and Nate Williams to lead a push against an average Penn State line and apply pressure to a rarely tested, first-year starter in McGloin.
Perhaps the biggest piece of the puzzle is Ross Homan, who is returning from injury. With Andrew Sweat (plucked out of Pennsylvania) stepping up in Homan's absence, this unit should be better than before. While I do see some balls going downfield for Penn State, it should be inconsistent enough to not make a difference.
The wild card here is the special teams. Penn State may have the best special teams in the conference, and the Buckeyes...well...don't. If Penn State were to get something early...who knows?
At the end of the day, the Buckeyes have far too much firepower on both sides of the ball for Penn State. I expect the game to stay close early on, but look for Ohio State to pull away fast and furious. The final:
THE Ohio State Buckeyes, 34
Penn State Nittany Lions, 13