An Unstoppable Force vs. an Immovable Object? Not So Fast...

By D.J. Byrnes on October 21, 2014 at 1:17 pm
Ezekiel Elliott takes a breather against Maryland.

When Ohio State at Penn State opened up at Ohio State (-11.5), I chortled. I undestand the Vegas Death Machine is well-oiled and merciless, and I'm just an average college football fan, but that line seemed like free money. Even though it's been bet up to Ohio State (-13.5), I still would have a hard time betting against the Buckeyes (assuming I owned money with which to bet in the first place).

And while Beaver Stadium will certainly be a huge home field advantage for Penn State (and the most hostile environment in which redshirt freshman J.T. Barrett has played), Penn State boasts a defense that's statistically better than I would have imagined.

From CBS Sports, here's the statistical picture of Penn State's team:

PENN STATE 1st 54th 6th

Obviously, the Nittany Lions' No. 1 rush defense — a stat you're likely to hear a lot on Saturday night — jumps off the page almost as much as their 90th ranked offense.

And while I touched on this in today's Skull Session, I was curious for a more composite look at the offenses the Nittany Lions have faced this year. 

The numbers aren't promising:

UCF 116th 93rd 121st
Akron 103rd 38th 83rd
Rutgers 72nd 47th 65th
Massachusetts 111th 13th 53rd
Northwestern 101st 79th 107th
Michigan 65th 107th 111th
AVERAGE 95th 63rd 90th

As mentioned this morning: when Michigan's vaunted, 65th ranked rushing attack is the best rushing offense you've faced... it leads me to believe your rushing defense's stats could be a tad overvalued. (To be fair to the Nittany Lions, they did hold Michigan to 64 yards rushing, 100 yards less than the Wolverines' average.)

The passing attacks they've faced — averaging out to 63rd best in the country — lead me to believe Penn State's 54th ranked pass defense might be worse than statistically expected, as they haven't lit up mediocre competition.

That's bad news for a unit coming up against the nation's 9th best offense.

Or is it? Here's a composite look the Buckeyes' offense, again via CBS Sports:

OHIO STATE 17th 34th 9th

Urban Meyer has said numerous times his goal for every game is 250 yards rushing and 250 yards passing. So far, his team is right on track averaging 260 yards rushing and 274 yards passing a game. The balance is even more impressive when you realize Ohio State has been blown out every opponent since Virginia Tech.

But despite hanging 52 points on Maryland and a 56-spot on Rutgers, Urban Meyer said his team didn't play offensively upfront as well as expected. 

Was that mindless coachspeak or something deeper? Well, given the defensive rankings of Maryland and Rutgers, maybe there were some points left on the board:

Navy 87th 61st 71st
Virginia Tech 29th 27th 20th
Kent State 111th 52nd 99th
Cincinnati 119th 110th 122nd
Maryland 101st 87th 101st
Rutgers 66th 98th 84th
AVERAGE: 86th 73rd 82nd

Nobody in these parts needs a refresher course of what Virginia Tech — the only formidable defense Ohio State has faced thus far in 2014 — did to our beloved Buckeyes.

But, while Ohio State has been rolling up teams like a bale of hay, it's pretty evident they've been doing it against lesser-talented units. So while the fan in me loves the results of Ohio State's last two outings, the realist in me realizes that Ohio State's offense — much like Penn State's defense — still has a lot to prove.

If Penn State's rush defense is truly 29x better than Virginia Tech's, however, then we're about to find out how much Ohio State's passing attack has improved since early September.

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