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Does Penn State Have Any Magic Left in Columbus?

The hype around Penn State righting the ship and upsetting No. 5 Ohio State isn’t very loud right.

Ohio State is seemingly surging toward another Big 10 title game as freshman quarterback CJ Stroud and the Buckeyes’ high-powered offense reach new levels every game. Penn State’s offense, on the other hand, is sinking lower and lower each game — the nonuple overtime loss to Illinois last Saturday a masterclass of shoddy offense.

However, even playing at the Horseshoe in Columbus, Ohio, in the middle of a “Scarlet Out” during a night game… well, this is just sounding worse and worse. Does Penn State have a shot here?

Well, thanks to Penn State FB Thoughts, we’re reminded of the magical 2016 upset of Ohio State in Happy Valley when Penn State won as a heavy home ‘dog with two losses — courtesy of former PSU cornerback Grant Haley’s blocked kick returned for a touchdown.

I don’t know if it’s a fair comparison, however, as the 2016 Nittany Lions’ offense featured the likes of Trace McSorley, Saquon Barkley, Miles Sanders, Mike Gesicki and Chris Godwin. Penn State got hot to end the 2016 season, winning the Big 10 and making an appearance in the Rose Bowl against USC.

An offense led by a supposedly healthy Sean Clifford and Noah Cain (and an electric Jahan Dotson, to be fair) isn’t likely to replicate the Lions of old.

If the Lions are going to beat Ohio State tonight, it’s going to be because the defense shuts down Stroud, freshman running TreVeyon Henderson and wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson… no pressure there. Illinois couldn’t pass to save its life against the Lions last week, but the Illini did run for 357 yards last week.

Henderson is one of the most explosive runners in the nation this season, averaging nearly nine yards per carry, and if he bounces it out against the Lions’ defense — as Illinois did — it might not be a pretty sight. And again, with Stroud playing some of the best football in the nation over the past handful of weeks, even one of the strongest secondaries in the nation is going to be in for a tough test.

The Lions’ secondary is going to have to lock up Olave and Wilson, get Stroud into a funk early, and the Lions’ front seven is going to have to keep Henderson and fellow running back Master Teague from racking up chunk plays on the ground. So, pretty easy, right?

A historic win over Ohio State on the eve of Halloween would certainly spook the Ohio State supporters in attendance, but the ingredients for a shocking Penn State win do not appear to be in the cauldron right now.

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