Here are some interesting stats from last year's game in Happy Valley. Most of us probably remember them...but just in case you cannot remember.
|Ohio St.||Penn St.|
|Passing||28/43 - 245 yds.||8/23 - 154 yds.|
|Rushing||40 attempts for 168 yds.||37 attempts for 122 yds|
|Penalties||8 - 45 yds.||1 - 5 yds.|
What stands out to me are the passing stats of Trace McSorley from last year. At the time, I remember it was difficult to believe, that in the year 2016, the Buckeyes lost to a team that had eight completions for an entire game.
Make no mistake, I am not claiming the loss to Penn St. last year was a fluke. As a matter of fact, Penn St. played exactly the way they should have played in order to win the game. This year, Penn St. will, more than likely, need to play in the same manner to win again.
How will they play? Here is a quote from James Franklin, speaking about Michigan's defense, after the Penn St. victory this past weekend.
When you play that style of defense and they’ve had success against everybody, you have to be able and willing to hit the go balls, the fade balls, the inside fade by number two and typically, people can’t hit them enough to make them pay for playing that style of defense. Tonight, we were able to do that. In my opinion, it was the biggest difference in the game. When you’re able to complete long balls, shots down the field against a team that is trying to sack your quarterback and trying to play man coverage, you’re going to be difficult to deal with. We were able to do that tonight at a fairly consistent rate, as well as get some pass interferences or holds as well which factored too.
We all know what the good guys in Columbus like to do on defense and they have done it with great success. Just in case you are new, the Buckeyes like to play press-man coverage and get after the quarterback. As of late, they recruited a lot of DE's & CB's specifically for this purpose and many currently play in the NFL. They have also hired coaches who employ this philosophy.
It seems Penn St. had a similar strategy in last year's game. Here are three of McSorley's eight completions from that night:
In my opinion, McSorley will need to complete similar throws this year in order to help his team win the game. Barkley will certainly be a factor in the game, but I do not believe he can win the game on his rushing yards alone.
This "chicks dig the long ball" strategy is nothing new. Teams have been trying to beat press man coverage with deep throws since the dawn of the forward pass.
I remember the 2013 Big Ten Championship game against Michigan State. The Spartans had their "No Fly Zone" defense which included CB Trae Waynes, a 1st round draft pick and CB Darqueze Dennard, a 1st round draft pick. The Buckeyes tried to exploit some match-ups against the MSU safeties in the slot without much success.
So, the key this week will be: Can Ohio State's DBs defend the long pass with consistency? If the defense can keep these types of completions to two or less, then there is a very good chance for a Buckeye victory.