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Stroud, Ohio State’s Weapons Provide Big Test for Penn State

CJ Stroud against Penn State in 2021.

When Penn State’s defense lines up against the Ohio State offense Saturday afternoon at Beaver Stadium, it will be the most talented group the Nittany Lions will have faced to date.

That offense features Heisman front-runner C.J. Stroud who’s accounted for 28 touchdowns so far this season. It’s not likely Penn State will be able to stop Stroud, but containing him will be paramount.

“The quarterback makes big time, accurate throws,” Penn State’s James Franklin said following practice Wednesday. “He makes some throws … that it’s a small window he’s able to thread the ball into, not only with arm talent in terms of strength, but also in terms of accuracy.”

That skillset is what provides the Nittany Lions with a multitude of problems matchup wise against the Buckeyes, but Stroud is facing what should be his biggest challenge of the season, too. Though, it’s important to note Penn State and Ohio State in recent years have been matched up pretty well with the margin of victory over the last six games being 6.3 points.

The Nittany Lions will looking to contain Stroud and limit the damage done by both his arms and legs, something not done by many throughout his career with the Buckeyes.

“If we can make the quarterback hold the ball and get off his first progression and get some pressure on him, that would be helpful, too,” Franklin said. “There just hasn’t been a whole lot of people who have been able to do that up to this point.”

Of course, it’s not just Stroud who makes the offense go. It starts with head coach Ryan Day and trickles down to pretty much every one on the offensive side of the football.

“We’re talking about another scheme with talented coaches, but also really talented players,” Franklin said.

Those players such as wide outs Jaxon Smith-Njigba and Emeka Egbuka add a lot more layers to the offense and who the Nittany Lions have to defend and prepare for which provides a bevy of potential problems.

“That’s the challenge, right? When you got somebody on the right side of the field that’s a problem, somebody’s on the left side of the field that’s a problem, somebody in the slot that’s a problem and somebody in the backfield that’s a problem,” Franklin said.

It makes it difficult because it’s not like you can say we’re going to take away the slot or we’re going to take away the tight end or we’re going to load the box … that’s when people are really hard to defend, when they have multiple guys in multiple spots that are proven and can hurt you.”

For Franklin, one of the most successful and consistent position groups this season has been the secondary and that’s going to be put to the test big time against Ohio State.

“We feel good about our backend and have worked very hard at developing that group and recruiting that group. Those guys have been tested, but they’re going to be tested again on Saturday,”

Can the secondary pass that test? We’re going to find out soon enough.


  • Franklin on Bryce Effner: “We view him as a starter. We feel like he has the ability to play both tackle and guard reps.
  • Franklin on losing recruits to Big Ten schools: “Let’s be honest, in this league it happens all the time … it obviously stings a little bit more when you see them.”
  • Johnny Dixon on coach Terry Smith’s style: “He can dress. If you ever see him out, he’s got a fit on.”
  • Dixon on Abdul Carter and Curtis Jacobs being on the field: “It’s exciting seeing both those guys on the field  because they’re playmakers.”

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