You wake up on Saturday morning as James Franklin. You turn off your alarm, which is an Australian accented Siri voice repeatedly saying "You're a great in-game coach." You get out of bed and take a look at your gameplan, play sheets, and tendencies. If you need a victory against the Buckeyes, what is your plan to attack them?
A few stats to keep in mind:
Penn State ranks 15 nationally in scoring offense, 7th in scoring defense, 29th in passing offense (8.3 YPA), 58th in rushing offense (4.54 YPC), and 25th in red zone TD %. Ohio State ranks 1st in scoring offense, 1st in scoring defense, 12th in passing offense (9.1 YPA), 4th in rushing offense (6.15 YPA), and 3rd in red zone TD %.
Penn State holds their opponents to 62% of their average rushing yard total, while Ohio State holds their opponents to 61% of their average (both elite numbers). Penn State, however, holds their opponents to only 95% of their passing yards average, while Ohio State holds their opponents to 71% of their average.
If I am Big Game James, this tells me a number of things.
1) Penn State needs to slow the game down, because Ohio State's passing offense is consistent, efficient, and at times, explosive.
2) Penn State's secondary is spending half the time pulling their pants up from their ankles and remembering what down it is.
3) Penn State's conventional passing game relies on explosive passing plays. Clifford is not overly consistent, nor accurate. A spread passing game is out of the question.
4) As 11W's own Kyle Jones explained, Rutgers may have created a blueprint to finding holes in OSU's rush defense. Rutgers used a numbers advantage, a la Urban Meyer, to create lanes for a mildly successful running QB. If I'm James Franklin, I would note Ohio State has yet to face a truly dangerous running threat at QB that can successfully run RPO.
5) To go off number 4, I am going to RPO Ohio State to death. Noah Cain has been injured, which has hurt Penn State's conventional running game. I would want Ohio State's defense to have to overthink, so I'm going to give them the threat of RB run, QB run, slants to Hamler, and matchups with Freiermuth on every single play.
So to recap: I would run more zone coverage to make up for the porous secondary while having confidence in my front 7 to contain Fields and Dobbins, RPO OSU's defense and hope for a Juice Williams type of game from Clifford (interspersed with explosive plays to Hamler and Freiermuth), and hope I don't make an egregious coaching mistake in the 4th quarter.
What say you?