Five reasons Penn State could cause issues for Ohio State Saturday

It’s an Ohio State football game eve folks, and we’re getting ready for a pretty big one this weekend with the Buckeyes traveling to Happy Valley to take on a top-15 opponent, the Penn State Nittany Lions.

The Buckeyes have looked nearly unbeatable, taking care of teams easily even with less than their best at times. However, traveling to State College seems to always result in a Donnybrook, and Ohio State better be ready for the best shot Penn State can dish out.

There are plenty of reasons to believe that OSU will take care of business on Saturday afternoon, but there are others that say this one could turn into a bit of an unexpected dogfight for a game the oddsmakers say Ohio State should handle rather easily.

And while we will be rooting hard for this game to have a very distinct scarlet and gray flair, here are five reasons Penn State could pose a threat to derail the undefeated season for Ryan Day and his gang.

Talent in the secondary

Penn State Nittany Lions cornerback Joey Porter Jr. (9) questions a call during Saturday’s NCAA Division I football game against the Ohio State Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium in Columbus on Oct. 30, 2021. USA TODAY Sports

If you’re looking at a team that might have a chance at locking down the Ohio State receivers, Penn State might be it. Ji’Ayir Brown and Joey Porter Jr might two of the best defensive backs in the Big Ten, and they could have a say in the game plan for the Buckeye offense.

It’s not all about the back end, because if CJ Stroud has time, you like the chances of him finding one of the talented receivers, but there’s a better shot of at least containing so many big plays.

If Ohio State isn’t its usual explosive self, there’s clearly a better chance at this one being tight all the way into the fourth quarter.

Talent gap more equitable

Oct. 22, 2022; University Park, Pennsylvania; Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) gestures from the line of scrimmage during the second quarter against the Minnesota Golden Gophers at Beaver Stadium. Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

There’s no wonder Penn State has been able to play Ohio State closer historically than any other program in the Big Ten over the last decade or so. It has everything to do with talent.

When you look at the players on both teams’ rosters and the recruiting classes that have piled up, the Nittany Lions have been close to the Buckeyes, especially at the skill positions. This game is sometimes about beating the man in front of you and winning those 1 on 1 matchups. Penn State will be able to do that at times on Saturday.

The style of play

Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Sean Clifford (14) hands the ball off to Penn State Nittany Lions running back Keyvone Lee (24) during the NCAA football game against the Purdue Boilermakers, Thursday, Sept. 1, 2022, at Ross-Ade Stadium in West Lafayette, Ind. USA TODAY Sports

We’ve written about it this week, but it’s worth noting that what you saw from A replay of Penn State against Michigan isn’t what you are likely to see Saturday. Expect a better effort and a closer game. One of those reasons has to do with the style of play and construction of the roster.

While Michigan beat up the Nittany Lions physically with a punishing running game, that’s not what you will probably see from Ohio State. The offense will try to be balanced, but don’t expect it to be ground and pound.

Expect a more free-flowing game to take place on Saturday and for that to work more in Penn State’s favor. We’re not saying it’ll result in an upset, but it’d be a mild shock to see this one end up being what we saw in Ann Arbor.

The home environment

General view of the white out crowd before the game between the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Michigan Wolverines on Oct. 19, 2019, at Beaver Stadium in University Park, Pennsylvania. Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

By now you know that this game is not going to be a whiteout. That was Penn State’s game last weekend against Minnesota. However, it’s still on the road and the Nittany Lions have been a much better team at home playing against Ohio State than coming to Columbus.

Penn State’s only win over Ohio State in the last nine seasons came at home in 2016. The average score in games Penn State hosts during that time frame is 30.4-24.4 in Ohio State’s advantage. Even in 2014 when OSU was the much better team, Penn State sent the game into overtime behind Joey Bosa’s heroics.

The team just gets a boost at home and there’s no way around it.

Rinse and repeat the template

PJ Mustipher #97 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates with teammates after recording a sack against the Villanova Wildcats during the first half at Beaver Stadium on Sept. 25, 2021, in State College, Pennsylvania. Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Of course, the Penn State coaches will have poured through the Iowa game film by now and if there’s a template put out there on how to slow this Ohio State offense down, the first half the Hawkeyes played on defense would be it. The Nittany Lions have the personnel to do it.

Iowa played a lot of quarters and zone defense. Despite Manny Diaz employing an attacking style, look for a little bit of the same philosophy in this one.

The Hawkeyes walked guys down into the box on the running game and allowed the corners and safeties to check the receivers down the field and it worked really well, they just couldn’t hold up all game. Penn State has a physical defensive front and the skill to hold things down on the back end as a bend but don’t break unit.

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Story originally appeared on Buckeye Wire