Mascot: Nittany Lions
Stadium: Beaver Stadium (107,282)
2011 Record: 9-4
2012 Record: 5-2
Head Coach: Bill O'Brien (1st year at PSU, 5-2)
Letterman Returning: (33; lost - 25)
Returning Starters: Offense - 2; Defense - 4; Specialists - 1
Base Defense: 4-3
Base Offense: Ace (3 receivers) & Power-I
Lisa Salters, ESPN reporter
Todd Blackledge, NFL quarterback; TV sports analyst
Adam McKay, Screenwriter and director of Anchorman and Talladega Nights
Tom Verducci, senior writer, Sports Illustrated
Mike Scioscia, MLB catcher and manager
Franco Harris, NFL Hall of Fame running back
David Morrell, author of First Blood (beginning of Rambo series)
Cheerleader Scouting Report:
This fifth year senior is actually a graduate student, known by Buckeye fans as the quarterback with "moxie"! McGloin is tough, intelligent and competitive, and is having a whale of a senior season now that he has a coach who believes in him. Thus far he has hit 62.5% of his throws, leads the B1G with 255.4 ypg, and most impressively, has 14 TD's and only 2 INT's.
A year ago this sophomore caught all of 3 passes and this season was supposed to back up players like Devon Smith and Justin Brown who decided to transfer. Now, Robinson is the star of the show, and has 47 catches, 563 yards and 8 TD's. McGloin has other threats, but Robinson has become his favorite target, and he is a big one at 6'3", 201 lbs.
Hill is a big guy at nearly 300 pounds, and is a rock in the middle of the line, pairing with the even bigger DeQuan Jones. Jordan is the Lions fourth leading tackler with 37, which includes 4 for loss and 2.5 sacks. He also has an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery and will be a load for the OSU offensive line.
The best of an excellent set of Nittany Lion linebackers, Mauti is a senior who was hurt last year but has returned with a vengeance. He showed this week that he has a big mouth but he also backs it up, leading the team with 65 tackles, with 3.5 for loss, including 2.5 sacks. He has also picked off 3 passes, forced 2 fumbles and recovered one.
If you are looking for a weakness on the Penn State team you might look no further than their kicker. Ficken, a sophomore from Indiana, has struggled, hitting just 4-11 FG's with a a long of 34. He has also missed two extra points. Now, he may look great this week, but so far it has been tough sledding, and his accuracy issues cost PSU the Virginia game.
Talk about a guy who inherited a tough job, O'Brien not only followed PSU legend Joe Paterno, but had to endure an offseason of incredible turmoil, and the loss of some of his best players. After starting the year with a couple of losses, he has steered the Lions to five straight wins, and showed some of the offensive expertise that he is known for from his days with the Patriots, guiding Tom Brady.
Those who thought the Lions would be a contender for the Leaders Division title raise your hands. Okay, Nittany Lion mascot, you can put your paw down now. Outside of Penn State fanatics, nobody thought this team was a threat in the B1G after they lost at home to Ohio and on the road to Virginia. But riding a tough defense, and an improving veteran quarterback, PSU has reeled off five in a row, and looks strong as the Buckeyes come to Happy Valley.
On offense it really does start with Matt McGloin, who never seemed to have Joe Pa's trust, even though he started 10 games the past couple of years. But in 2012, the keys to the offense were handed to him from the get-go, and he has responded with a splendid season. He makes few mistakes, while guiding a team that averages 406.4 ypg and 28.6 ppg, and has only turned it over 7 times all season.
Behind him is a number of solid backs, but none that strike fear into you the way Silas Redd did. The best of the bunch is Bill Belton, a sophomore who has missed 3 games but is set to start again this week. He averages 58.2 ypg, at 4.8 ypc. Sharing tailback with him is Zach Zwinak who is a load at 232 lbs, and averages 52.7 ypg, at 4.4 ypc. Also, PSU will run their fullback, Ohio native Mike Zordich, who has 191 yards and a touchdown. All told the back-by-committee approach has worked out okay, but the Lions only average 150 yards per game on the ground.
The biggest surprise on offense has been the young receiving corps, led by Allen Robinson, who was highlighted above. Other starters are Brandon Moseby-Felder and Alex Kenney, who have 15 and 12 catches respectively, meaning together they don't equal Robinson's numbers. However, tight ends Kyle Carter (29, 361, 1) and Matt Lehman (13, 163, 2) are both used a great deal by McGloin, and could provide tough match-ups for OSU's linebackers.
The offensive line was supposed to be a work in progress this year, with only one returning starter in senior center Matt Stankiewitch, who is a good one. The rest of the line may not have any big names, but all of the starters have good size and have performed nicely, especially in pass blocking, allowing only 8 sacks. It will be up to the Buckeyes to stop the run, make PSU one dimensional, and try and get some pressure on McGloin, which won't be easy.
Without doubt, defense is the calling card for this Lion team. They surrender 322.7 yards and 15.7 points per game, the kind of statistics we expected from the Silver Bullets. Leading the way on the line is the duo in the middle with big Jordan Hill and bigger DeQuan Jones. At end, PSU starts Sean Stanley and Deion Barnes, the latter of whom has a team leading 4 sacks. Off the bench comes Anthony Zettel who has another 3 sacks for a team that averages nearly three per game. So the OSU o-line will be tested.
Linebacker U. has another strong group at the position, led by outside 'backer Michael Mauti with his 65 tackles. On the other side is Gerald Hodges who has 54 tackles and 5 passes defensed and in the middle PSU starts Glenn Carson who is third on the team with 42 tackles. Backing up this crew is Michael Hull who has 26 tackles and has returned a fumble recovery for a touchdown. There is no doubt this unit is the strongest on the team, which is part of why Penn State only gives up 113 yards rushing per game, and is enough to make a Buckeye fan salivate.
In the defensive backfield the Lions start Stephon Morris and Adrian Amos at corner, and both are solid, with 29 and 26 tackles respectively, but no interceptions. Safeties Malcolm Willis and Stepehn Obeng-Agyapong have combined for 52 tackles but also have 0 interceptions, as all 6 of PSU's picks have come from their front seven. Opponents have hit 60% of their passes and thrown for about 210 yards per game, as attacking through the air seems to be a better bet than on the ground.
Special teams have not been overly strong for the Lions, as kicker Sam Ficken has struggled, and the return game hasn't been much better. A number of return men have been used, but Penn State is averaging only 18.5 on kick returns and 5.6 on punt returns. Punter Alex Butterworth (real name) hans't torn it up either, averaging just 35.7 per punt, but he has downed 11 inside the 20 and hasn't had any blocked. Opponents have returned both a kick and a punt for a touchdown, so maybe this week the young Bucks will win the special teams battle.
This is almost always an interesting game, and while it may feature two teams who can't play in the postseason it very well may determine the winner of the B1G Leaders Division. To me there are some questions that must be answered: 1) Is Braxton really healthy, and if so, will he be tentative after a frightening injury? 2) Will the boisterous crowd at Beaver Stadium mess with a young Buckeye offense and throw them out of rhythm? 3) Can the defense muster up a performance like they had at Michigan State? And finally, 4) Can the Buckeyes continue to lead a charmed life and find a way to stay undefeated?
Penn State is a good team, playing with confidence, but not a great team. On offense they are not a strong running team, and the Silver Bullets need to shut them down, and make them one dimensional. McGloin is accurate and poised, but he does not have the most explosive weapons, so the much maligned OSU defense should have a chance to play their best game in a month. They will need it in order to compete.
Ohio State will try and re-establish the run, a week after they struggled against a porous Purdue defense. I think that will prove to be tough sledding. Hopefully either Miller or Hyde can bust a long one, but I think in order to move the chains Ohio State will be forced to throw the ball. If they are patient, I think they can have some success against an okay Penn State secondary. However, the OSU o-line will have to protect Miller and Guiton, if he plays some, which I expect. Obviously, if the Buckeye signal callers get flustered and turn the ball over, it will be a long night in (un)Happy Valley.
In the end, special teams could play a big role, and Ohio State has the advantage in that department. It would be great to get a score from either the punt or kick return team.
Honestly, I find it hard to choose a team that is coming off two very uninspiring performances. I expect them to play better, but wonder if it will be enough to get the W.
Father vs. Son Prediction Battle:
Dave: PSU 24, OSU 22
Drew: OSU 21, PSU 20