Saturday night's clash between Ohio State and Penn State features two teams seemingly headed in opposite directions.
The Nittany Lions have lost two straight, including a 20-18 loss in nine overtimes to Big Ten doormat Illinois last weekend, at home no less, after Penn State's defense gave up 357 rushing yards while its offense mustered just 227 yards behind a banged up Sean Clifford.
Despite Penn State's recent struggles after reaching as high as No. 4 in the polls, Ohio State head coach Ryan Day expects a battle on Saturday night, largely because he believes the Nittany Lions do indeed possess a legit defense.
Day said as much yesterday during his weekly press conference:
"I think the defense has really played well ... it's a really good defense. The front is very active and the secondary is veteran now. It's one of the better defenses in the country."– Ryan Day
Looking at some standard defensive metrics, Penn State's defense indeed looks formidable. The Nittany Lions rank No. 6 in scoring defense (14.7), No. 15 in pass defense (178 ypg) and No. 26 in total defense giving up just 324 yards per game. Solid numbers, no doubt.
Similar to Ohio State's own defense however, James Franklin's group has largely faced some pretty terrible offenses, which you have to take into account when projecting how they might fare facing a Buckeye attack ranked No. 1 in both scoring offense (49.3) and total offense, racking up 532 yards per contest buoyed but the country's No. 6 passing offense (352 ypg).
Take a look at a select few offensive metrics for Penn State's first seven opponents and how those teams fared against the Nittany Lions.
|OPPONENT||OPP YPP VS. PSU||OPP SEASON YPP||NATL RANK||OPP PASS YDS VS. PSU||OPP SEASON PASS YPG||NATL RANK||OPP PTS VS. PSU||OPP SEASON PPG||NATL RANK|
Yards per play is a decent metric to look at when evaluating an offense and of the six FBS opponents the Nittany Lions have faced to-date, five of them rank 96th or worse with Auburn the lone squad to rank in the top 30 with 6.5 yards per play. Penn State fared well in that contest holding the Tigers to nearly two yards below their season-to-date yards per play average. Ohio State enters the game averaging 8.4 yards per play, good for No. 2 in the country but hey, it's not like they've faced the Steel Curtain every week either.
A lot has been made of Penn State's pass defense and how well it performs on Saturday will be a huge factor in dictating the game's winner. While the Nittany Lions' secondary enter the contest with a lofty reputation, it's worth nothing that four of the six FBS opponents they've played this year rank 99th or worse in passing offense. Auburn is the only opponent ranked in the top 50. The Buckeyes come in featuring a lethal passing game led by C.J. Stroud and a trio of future-NFL receivers.
Finally, Franklin's squad has held five of six FBS opponents to below their season points per game average. In particular, the Nittany Lions had great success limiting points against Auburn, Wisconsin and Indiana. Again however, four of Penn State's six FBS opponents rank 94th or worse in scoring offense while the Buckeyes enter the game averaging 49.3 points per contest.
Whether or not the Nittany Lions can slow down Ohio State's offense remains to be seen though it can argued they've got it in them. That said, there's no question they've not faced anything so far this season that compares to the firepower Day's offense will bring to the table.