Game Nine: Penn State Nittany Lions
Location: Ohio Stadium (Columbus, OH) 8PM EST, ABC
Head Coach: Joe Paterno
Penn State Players Who Were Recruited By Ohio State: CB A.J. Wallace, WR Derrick Williams, LB Navorro Bowman, FB Michael Zordich, LB Chris Colasanti, DE Devon Still. Other Penn State players who either had interest in Ohio State or Ohio State was preliminary pursuing are LB Andrew Dailey, QB Daryll Clark, and RB Brandon Beachum (all three are Ohio natives).
Penn State Rushing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: Penn State's rushing attack relies on RB Evan Royster. While Penn State will run some option with QB Daryll Clark, Royster leads the team with 893 yards and a 7.7 ypc average. Backup Stephfon Green does not receive nearly the carries Royster does, but has even better speed in the open field.
Last week against Michigan State, Ohio State effectively shut down Michigan State's Javon Ringer. It would not surprise me if Ohio State sold out against the run on Penn State, trying to force Penn State to win with the passing game. Ohio State is ranked 1st in The Big Ten in rushing defense.
Slight Edge: Penn State
Penn State Passing Offense vs Ohio State Defense: QB Daryll Clark has three very good targets in WR Derrick Williams, WR Deon Butler, and WR Jordan Norwood. Throw in TEs Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless, and you'll see why it is so difficult to defend Penn State's spread offense. Clark is mobile enough to buy time in the pocket, can scramble for positive yardage, and his receivers are difficult to defend one on one in the open field. Clark is ranked 2nd in The Big Ten in passing efficiency.
Even with the inherent risks of playing man coverage, I look for Ohio State to put Malcolm Jenkins, Donald Washington, and Chimdi Chekwa into one on one coverage assignments in an effort to slow down the Penn State attack. Ohio State's defensive backs, especially Kurt Coleman, have demonstrated a knack for opportunistically creating turnovers. I would also not be surprised if Jermale Hines is used as a spy on Daryll Clark, in an effort to minimize Clark's effectiveness as a scrambler.
Ohio State Rushing Offense vs Penn State Defense: Look for Penn State to put eight men in the box to shut down the Ohio State rushing attack. Penn State is second in The Big Ten in rushing defense (behind Ohio State) and is always one of the most physical teams when it comes to defense.
RB Chris Wells should look for at least 30 carries that will be hard-fought throughout the game. QB Terrelle Pryor will probably have a spy assigned to him by Penn State, to minimize his outside running capabilities. If backup RB Boom Herron can spell Chris Wells throughout the game, Ohio State will be in much better shape. Ohio State should look to struggle with the running game at first, and it will be important for Ohio State to stay patient with the running game as the game proceeds.
Ohio State Passing Offense vs Penn State Defense: Ohio State continues to struggle with its passing game, ranking 11th in The Big Ten. Conversely, Penn State ranks as the top pass defense in The Big Ten, providing Ohio State with a tremendous challenge. It will be important for Ohio State to effectively mix play-action passing in on first and second down to effectively combat what will probably be an eight-man front by Penn State. Penn State's front four, led by DE Aaron Maybin (10 sacks, 14 TFL), will provide a stern challenge to Ohio State's offensive line all game long.
It will not surprise me if QB Terrelle Pryor runs several waggle or bootleg plays that may not gain a great deal of yardage, but will put Ohio State in 2nd and 7 or 2nd and 6 type scenarios. These open up the playbook, versus the 2nd and 10 or 3rd and 10 challenges Ohio State will want to avoid at all costs.
Edge: Penn State
Special Teams: Considering how Coach Tressel emphasizes special teams, it will not surprise me if Ohio State's punting and kickoff teams avoid returner Derrick Williams at all costs. Considering Williams' abilities to take a kickoff or punt the distance when he receives it, it would be better for Ohio State to kick high and short on kickoffs, while also directionally punting deliberately out of bounds to eliminate Williams' effect on the return game.
While many/most Ohio State fans groan about Ohio State's inffectiveness in the red zone, Ohio State needs to end each of its offensive series with points. This is the type of game where PK Aaron Pettrey, who is traditionally the "long" field goal kicker, may be getting more opportunities than usual.
Intangibles: Penn State has not won in Ohio Stadium since joining The Big Ten back in 1993. With an 8pm kickoff, fans will have many hours to prepare for what should be one of the best games of the year.
While Penn State has looked impressive this year in its victories, what is the signature win for Penn State this season? Is it Oregon State, who later defeated USC? Is it Illinois, who are now 4-3 on the season? Believe me, I know that USC thrashed Ohio State, but I believe Ohio State is better tested going into a game such as this than Penn State.
If Penn State wins this game, they are still in the hunt for The BCS Championship Game. If Ohio State wins this game, they are still in position to win the outright Big Ten championship and go to The Rose Bowl. With those factors taken into account, it seems as though the pressure is more on Penn State versus Ohio State.
Slight Edge: Ohio State
In order for Ohio State to stay in this game, Ohio State needs to do three things: 1) Get a lead early and maintain it. 2) With the lead, the crowd should be in it to make things challenging for Penn State to hear, and 3) Capitalize on turnovers. If Penn State jumps out to a big lead, it will take the crowd out of it and put pressure on Ohio State offensively.
As much as my head wants to pick Penn State, I am going to go with my heart and the home crowd on this one.
Ohio State 24, Penn State 21
Game Nine: Penn State Nittany Lions