21 September 2006

Penn State vs. Ohio State

Along with the games against Notre Dame and Michigan, these are the big three games of the season. I was hopeful in my preseason preview that we could at least win one of these three. After all, a 10-2 season would be nothing to scoff at given the amount of holes that needed to be filled on both sides of the ball. Unfortunately (and despite every desire to think otherwise), I don't think this is going to be "the one." Don't get me wrong, I want Penn State to win. I very much hope I can write on Saturday night about how wrong I was in this prediction. I have no less faith in my Nittany Lions but I am trying to be realistic and fair with this prediction.

As I said after last week's game against Youngstown State, Penn State will have to play nearly perfect to win this game. No stupid mistakes. We will need to outplay Ohio State on both sides of the ball, and special teams. And on top of that, we need some breaks, something we really haven't gotten any of so far this season.

On offense, we have to put points on the board. Not field goal attempts, either. We're talking touchdowns and several of them. Galen Hall will need to pull out all the stops with the playbook. No drive killing penalties. No stupid mistakes.

The defense has been solid (except against Notre Dame). We can't allow Troy Smith the time to find his open receivers like we did for Brady Quinn. Smith hasn't run nearly as much this year as he did last, but we still need to be aware of that capability. The game plan calls for big defensive pressure from the front three (or four), aggressive linebacker play, and hopefully forcing Ohio State into offensive mistakes.

Special teams have been sketchy all year. This is the week to show the nation the speed we have at the special teams' skill positions. No holding miscues. Solid kicking game.

There is a path that leads to Penn State victory, but I think it involves almost all of the above, plus some luck. I still think this team is too young and inexperienced at key positions to pull off this victory, but I pray that the Nittany Lions can prove me wrong! Ohio State 31, Penn State 17.
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