Behind Enemy Lines: Ohio State vs. Penn State game perspective from Nittany Lions Wire

·6 min read

We’re on the doorstep of a pretty significant game for Ohio State as it relates to the Big Ten East race, and a shot at winning its fourth-straight conference title. Let’s not forget that OSU has put itself squarely back into the College Football Playoff race, but any misstep from here on out will likely wipe that off the board.

We’ve already provided you with some pregame content on this well-followed website, but it’s interesting to get the take from the other sideline as well. We do that when we can, and in this case, it just so happens that we have a sister site, Nittany Lions Wire, that does an outstanding job covering Penn State. We know you’re here because you’re an Ohio State fan, but if you’ve stumbled across this and are a PSU fan, or know someone that begins every sentence with “We are …” then let them know about NLW.

We talked to Nittany Lions Wire publisher, Kevin McGuire, just to get his take on how he views this matchup by posing a few questions about the matchup, and here’s what he had to say.

NEXT … How has Penn State been able to bounce back from last season?

On Penn State bouncing back this season

BW: How has Penn State been able to right the ship after last season. Was it more a product of COVID-19, or are there other things that have the Nittany Lions back among the contenders in the league?

McGuire: The biggest difference in the way this season started compared to last year was probably just as simple as having an actual offseason routine that included regular spring football practices. Penn State also dealt with plenty of COVID-related protocols that made it tough to find any consistency last season, and the program just wasn’t able to be operated the way James Franklin prefers until later in the year. Perhaps not so coincidentally, things improved in practice style right around when Penn State ended its 2020 season on a winning streak.

Having a full spring with new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich was beneficial for Sean Clifford, who came out much more confident at the start of the season and he avoided making costly decisions that were abundant during last season’s dreadful start.

NEXT … We ask why Penn State and Ohio State seem to pull out “special” circumstances against each other

On both teams pulling out all the stops against each other with the environment

BW: Why do you think both teams tend to pull out the stops against each other? OSU has used alternate uniforms a few times against Penn State, and we all know about the white-out conditions that are always expected when the Buckeyes head to Happy Valley. Is it because Penn State sees Ohio State as its main rival in the conference?

McGuire: I can’t necessarily speak to what it is about Penn State that brings out the best Ohio State has to offer other than suggesting the Buckeyes just have the talent to make big pivotal plays when needed. But it’s pretty easy from the Penn State side of things. Simply put, the Buckeyes are the barometer of success in the Big Ten, and they remain the biggest obstacle Penn State (and everyone else) faces in chasing a division title. And there is no question fans feed off of that in Happy Valley, which is why a home game against Ohio State is an absolute blast, especially if both teams are good.

I think you can book it that any time Ohio State visits, it will be a whiteout game (and Michigan is on the home schedule the years Penn State plays at Ohio State, and the Wolverines typically get the same billing).

Penn State fans always have fun picking on Michigan, but I don’t think you will find anyone supporting the Nittany Lions who won’t recognize Ohio State as Penn State’s biggest rival in the conference, whether that feeling is reciprocated or not (I am well aware where Penn State ranks against Michigan).

NEXT … On whether Penn State can win this game

What the game will have to look like for Penn State to have a chance

BW: If Penn State is to win this game, how do you see it unfolding? What do the Nittany Lions need to do to spring the upset?

McGuire: “The formula for success for Penn State is pretty simple, but it may be easier said than done. It starts with the defense, which has been pretty good all season long. While they struggle stopping the run against teams that can move the ball on the ground, the Nittany Lions have a secondary that can step up to make some big plays in a variety of ways.

“Teams haven’t scored many points off Penn State this season (Iowa’s 24 is the only time Penn State has allowed more than 20 points in a game this season), and the red zone defense has been incredibly good this season. But it is expected Ohio State will manage to have a little more success than anyone has this season. The key will be to just simply keep the game within reach and give the offense a chance.

“The offense has some serious concerns, including the inability to run the football. But if Sean Clifford really is 100% or close to it, then Penn State has a much better chance to be competitive and score some points. It will take a turnover-free performance from Clifford though, and his receivers will have to step up and make some plays that have been lacking in their last two games. And taking deep chances to Jahan Dotson has to result in at least one big play along the way.”

We want to think Kevin McGuire from Nittany Lions Wire for his time and thoughtful answers. If you want a further perspective on how this game is being viewed from the Penn State sideline and media, feel free to head on over and digest some outstanding content from our sister site.

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