Football

Speed Option: Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State wants Ohio State to be its rival and the Buckeyes already have one, but that has not made these games any less fun or contested through the years.

Yes, Ohio State has won the last five games and we are getting further away from the window of time where the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions were playing games inside the three-point margin as Ohio State has won the last three game by a margin of 11 points.

We don’t know what time kickoff will be for this game but we do know that it is not going to be the annual white out game at Penn State, so that is progress as Ohio State seems to be in that slot each and every time they travel to Happy Valley.

But what happens in the stands has little to do with what goes on during the course of the game on the grass. So let’s hit the Speed Option and talk a little Penn State.

Penn State

All-time Series Record: Ohio State leads 23-14-0

Last Meeting: 2021 – Ohio State def. Penn State 33-24

2021 Record: 7-6, 4-5 Big Ten Conference

Returning Starters: 11 (7 Off., 4 Def.)

Head Coach: James Franklin

Offense

Total Offense: 376.4 YPG (82nd)

Rushing Offense: 107.8 YPG (118th)

Passing Offense: 268.5 YPG (26th)

Scoring Offense: 25.0 PPG (90th)

What is Sean Clifford going to look like this year? Can he hold off freshman superstar Drew Allar? Can Penn State run the ball? All of these questions are very valid when you look at a Penn State offense that was off last season.

Clifford threw for more than 3,100 yards last season and had 21 touchdowns but also had an uncharacteristic eight interceptions. The clock has already started with Ohio high school star Allar and there are people who have a short leash for the returning senior quarterback, but James Franklin will ultimately be the guy who makes that decision and his leash undoubtedly will be longer.

We know that Jahan Dotson is gone but Parker Washington and KeAndre Lambert-Smith are still a nice tandem to have at receiver so the cupboard is far from bare.

And then there is the running game. Keyvone Lee led the team in rushing last year with 530 yards, the team rushed for 11 touchdowns over 13 games and it was just a mess as the position has been down for a couple of seasons. Noah Cain needs to step up.

Defense

Total Defense: 352.5 YPG (38th)

Rushing Defense: 152.7 YPG (67th)

Passing Defense: 199.8 YPG (23rd)

Scoring Defense: 17.3 PPG (T-6th)

Where have we heard this before, this team needs to get more of a pass rush. So does Ohio State for that matter, so much good happens when you can get to the quarterback. In some ways there were some mirrors between these two teams when it came to inconsistency with the defensive output.

Penn State, much like Ohio State, has the guys to be successful. But what does year one under new defensive coordinator Manny Diaz look like? The Buckeyes made a splash with their new DC hire and the addition of Diaz may have gone under the radar around these parts, but there is a lot of hope that he can get more out of his players than his predecessor was able to do the previous season.

The linebacker position is the one that took the biggest hit over the offseason and that should not be a problem for a school that prides itself as LBU, right?

Random Musings

There is not much random to talk about in this series as the Ohio State versus Penn State game gets no shortage of coverage. The overall series looks a lot closer than it actually is with Ohio State only dropping five games in the 2000s to Penn State. And many of those games are remembered for one thing or another. There was the blocked field goal game, there was the Terrelle Pryor fumble game, there was the 2008 game where Ohio State could not score a touchdown and Penn State scored 10 points in the final quarter to steal one in Columbus, and the beat goes on.

But on the other side, there have been some tremendous games from the Ohio State side of things including those comeback wins, not limited to the JT Barrett near perfect quarter of football.