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Buckeyes Buckeye Archive Preview - Penn State at Ohio State
Written by Dan Wismar

Dan Wismar





OSU_PSU2- Saturday, November 13, 2010

- Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio

- Penn State at Ohio State

- 3:30 p.m. (ET)

- TV: ABC / ESPN -


Ohio State grabbed a breather at the three-quarter pole, and now heads down the home stretch of the season still having a shot at their sixth straight Big Ten title. November has been good to the Buckeyes, but when they host Penn State Saturday, they'll be trying to avenge the only blemish on Jim Tressel's 14-1 November mark over the last five seasons.

Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions knocked off Ohio State and their freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor back in 2008 on their way to a share of the league championship, a loss Pryor took hard at the time, and one he still has on his mind. He got a measure of revenge last year, when the Buckeyes went to Happy Valley and manhandled the Nittany Lions 24-7, as Pryor starred in his first game back in his home state.

This year the tables are turned, and it's Penn State (6-3, 3-2) faced with trying to win with a first-year quarterback. And that's not the only position where this Penn State group is green. The Nittany Lions have had a hard time scoring points in Columbus ever since they joined the Big Ten, and the Buckeye defense has had two weeks to get healthy. The oddsmakers like Ohio State (8-1, 4-1) by more than two touchdowns.


Paterno got victory No. 400 out of the way last week, and has been the subject of a much-deserved week of retrospective tributes in the media. His own active involvement with the team on game day has been curtailed the last couple years, but he and his staff have the Lions playing well at the moment, and they arrive in town on a three-game winning streak, just one game back of the four co-leaders in the conference.

In the all-time series between the schools, Ohio State leads 13-12. The Buckeyes are 8-6 against Penn State in Columbus, and they are 6-3 against the Nittany Lions under Jim Tressel. The 2008 win by Penn State was the Lions' first win in Columbus since they joined the conference in 1990.


Offense Clicking for PSU, But it's Columbus...

The Penn State coaches have apparently settled on a quarterback in Matt McGloin, after the sophomore led their comeback from a 21-0 deficit to a 35-21 win over Northwestern last week. Young McGloin threw for four touchdowns against the Wildcats, but he'll be up against all recent history trying to score through the air against the OSU defense Saturday. Consider...

There have been eight games between these two teams in Columbus since Penn State joined the Big Ten twenty years ago, and Ohio State has not allowed a touchdown pass in any of them. In fact, Penn State has not thrown a TD pass against the Buckeyes anywhere since 2003.

The Nittany Lions have scored a total of six touchdowns in those eight games at the Horseshoe, scoring more than ten points just once, the 13 total that beat OSU two years ago. Many of those games have been close, but this year's PSU defense doesn't resemble some of Paterno's better ones of the decade.

I don't think I'm out on a limb saying the Nittany Lions will have to double or triple the eight points per game they've averaged in Columbus as members of the Big Ten if they're going to have a chance on Saturday. Eight.


PSU_logo1Expect the Ground Game

With the inexperience at quarterback and a couple of capable running backs ready to go, Penn State will try to get Evan Royster and Stephon Green established on the ground early in series, to make 3rd downs more manageable for McGloin. Royster came into fall camp a little bit heavy, and got off to a slow start with just one 100-yard game in the first seven contests. But in the last two weeks, he has rushed for 150 yards (5.2 avg) against Michigan, and 134 yards (5.4 avg) against Northwestern.

Royster has become the all-time leading rusher for Penn State, with 3,652 yards, but he has not done a whole lot to enhance his resumé at the expense of the Ohio State Buckeyes. In three games against OSU, Royster has rushed 36 times for 129 yards, averaging 43.0 yards per game, with no touchdowns. Green has the pure speed that Royster lacks, and he has contributed 136 yards and a touchdown on the season. Freshman Silas Redd is the third tailback, and definitely a name to remember. He has 197 yards so far, rushing for a 5.6 yard average.

Three QB's, Zero Veterans

True freshman Rob Bolden started the season for the Lions at quarterback, and the big kid from Michigan had a couple of strong performances, but also the obligatory freshman mistakes. He completed 58% of his throws for over 1,350 yards and 5 TD's through seven games, but he suffered a concussion against Minnesota, missed a game, and then gave way to McGloin last week. Bolden is supposed to be healthy for OSU, and could play, but McGloin is expected to get the start.

McGloin has passed for 551 yards and 7 TD's in three games, and the coaches were impressed with his poise and his arm last week in JoePa's 400th win. Sophomore Kevin Newsome is the third young QB for the Lions, but he has dropped down the depth chart after showing lots of promise in early camp.

The Penn State receivers are unspectacular but solid, with the 6' 5" 202 lb. junior Derek Moye probably the closest thing they have to a No. 1 wideout. Moye has 33 catches on the season, for 615 yards and four TD's. Senior Brett Brackett is like a tight end playing receiver at 6' 6", 242, and he has chipped in with 28 receptions and 4 touchdowns. There is speed coming off the bench at receiver for the Lions, with Devon Smith and Justin Brown helping out with 23 and 16 receptions respectively.

The offensive line for Penn State has one star and a handful of question marks. Stefen Wisniewski was the All-Big Ten center a year ago, but he has moved to right guard for 2010, and senior Doug Klopacz has taken over at center. Left guard Johnnie Trouman is the second returning starter on the line.

Both offensive tackles, Quinn Barham on the left side, and junior right tackle Chima Okoli, are first year players, and as a unit, the line has taken some heat for the slow offensive start for the Lions. If Penn State coaches showed them the film of what Cam Heyward did to their interior linemen last year, they may not be getting much sleep this week.  Through nine games, the Nittany Lions are ranked 9th in the Big Ten in scoring offense, (24.2 ppg), and 8th in total offense (369.4 ypg). They rush for an average of 149.6 yards per game to rank 9th in the conference, while passing for 219.9 yards per game, to rank 8th. The Lions have played against two of the better defensive units in the country in their losses to Iowa and Alabama, which is at least a partial explanation for some of the depressed offensive numbers.


paterno-tresselInjuries and Inexperience Hurt the D

The familiar big names from the Penn State defenses of recent years are mostly gone...Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman, Jared Odrick. And it shows. The Nittany Lions have had  difficulty stopping the run in 2010, ranking 8th in the conference in run defense (156.4 ypg), and they were absolutely torched by Illinois (282 yds) and Michigan (232 yds) on the ground. The numbers against the pass are better, ranking 2nd behind OSU in pass defense at 189.6 ypg.

The Lions are probably strongest up the defensive tackle, inside linebacker and safety, and not quite as good on the outside. Defensive tackles Devon Still and Ollie Ogbu have been consistent performers for the Lions inside, while the defensive end spots have been hit hard by injuries. DE's Eric Latimore and Jack Crawford have both missed games with injury problems, and Latimore is not expected to play at OSU. Pete Massaro will likely get the start at end opposite Crawford, with sophomore Jordan Hill another possibility there.

At linebacker, Chris Colasanti is far and away the team leader in tackles from his middle backer position. The senior has responded to finally getting his chance to start for the Lions, and has been consistent throughout the year. OLB Michael Mauti has missed time with an ankle problem, but he and Bani Gbadyu are slated to start at the outside linebacker spots, backed up by Nate Stupar and Gerald Hodges. The Next Big Thing for Penn State at linebacker is true freshman Khairi Fortt, who has 15 tackles in limited duty so far.

D'Anton Lynn is the starter at one corner, and Chaz Powell, a converted receiver, is being given a shot on the other side. At safety, starter Nick Sukay is out with an injury, but the Lions are still pretty solid at the position, with Drew Astorino and Andrew Dailey patrolling the deep secondary.

The kicking game is very solid for the Lions, with Collin Wagner handling the placekicking (7 of 8 from 40+ yards) and Anthony Fera punting for a 41.6 yd average, with lots of hang time. They'll have Chaz Powell and Stephon Green returning kickoffs, and both can be breakaway threats.


State of the Bucks

The weekend off appears to have been as restful and therapeutic for the OSU players as it was for your humble correspondent. Several Buckeyes are back to full strength for the November run, and the depth chart for the game (pdf) holds few surprises.

Ross Homan, the senior captain and the team's leading tackler, will return after missing two games with a sprained foot. He'll assume his normal spot as the weakside linebacker, and Andrew Sweat will return to the strong side. Homan's backup at the Will spot, Dorian Bell, is also back to 100%, which should be a positive factor on special teams for the Buckeyes.

Aaron Gant makes his second start of the season at safety for OSU alongside Orhian Johnson, and Jermale Hines remains the Star back starter.


Pryor's Future

Terrelle Pryor made some headlines Thursday when he was quoted as saying he plans to return to OSU for his senior season. This is consistent with all his previous comments on the topic, and is probably newsworthy only because Pryor speaks to the media so seldom, especially on this topic. In addition, it's beginning to dawn on some OSU fans that if Pryor did decide to leave early for the NFL, his final home game appearance would be two short weeks away. Time flies.

Several OSU media people who are much closer than I to the situation feel that Pryor will leave early...the thinking being that the team loses a lot of starters after this season and next year's record could be significantly worse than 2010, damaging the Pryor brand in the eyes of NFL scouts. He may feel he's no better than a 2nd round pick in either year, so why risk injury or a less than stellar season in 2011. The PD's Doug Lesmerises was reminding people that we heard the same kind of "I'm coming back" assurances from Beanie Wells and Anthony Gonzalez among others, during their junior seasons, and they both left early.

I have little doubt that Pryor will be back though. I think at some point you have to take him at his word, even though you know the agents haven't started blowing in his ear yet. He seems to sincerely like college and the people he has around him at OSU. He wants to get his degree, and he wants to be a legend in OSU football. He also knows he would probably be at best the fourth QB taken in the 2011 draft.

If he plays another season at OSU, Pryor will obliterate many OSU career records, including total offense, rushing yards by a quarterback, total touchdowns accounted for, touchdown passes, and very likely the career passing yardage total of 7,547 yards held by Art Schlicter. You can see how Pryor ranks for all of these career stats on Page 7 of the Game Notes pdf document linked below. I don't think he's going anywhere...not least because I don't think he would be a 1st-rounder...and he knows it.


Idle Speculation

Despite their recent spurt, I think this is one of the weakest Penn State teams we've seen in several years. They lack speed at wide receiver, and all over their defense. They have improved since the season began, and all three of their losses have been to respectable teams (Iowa, Alabama, Illinois) but I don't think they have the offensive firepower to hang with the Buckeyes at the Horseshoe.

It will be interesting to see how much the OSU coaches call rushing plays for Pryor. They may decide to hold off on doing that unless they feel they have last week...but their play-calling will give us a hint at least, of how they feel Pryor's recovery from the quad strain has progressed.

The Lions are disciplined if not explosive on offense, and I think they'll have a little more than their average rate of success against the OSU defense. I'll give them double their average scoring in Columbus over the last 20 years...or 16 points, and call this one for the Buckeyes, 34-16.



OSU Athletics Communications - Game Notes (pdf)

2010 Ohio State Roster

2010 Penn State Roster



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