The meat and potatoes of Penn State football’s 2023 schedule starts Saturday. The team will head to Columbus for a Fox Big Noon Kickoff matchup against No. 3 Ohio State.
It’s a must win for the 2023 team, and it’s a must win for James Franklin.
Arguably the 2023 squad we’ve watched for six undefeated weeks is the best the head coach has assembled in his near 10 years guiding the ship. It’s the deepest squad in Franklin’s tenure, which he’s said many times. Penn State also have its best quarterback since Christian Hackenberg’s freshman season.
Saturday’s game is also the first time there’s national talk of Penn State travelling to Columbus and beating Ohio State.
Quite frankly, I expect it to do just that.
Ohio State is loaded on offense. Marvin Harrison Jr. (WR), Cade Stover (TE), Emeka Egbuka (WR), and TreVeyon Henderson (RB) all can cause problems for Penn State’s defense. There’s one problem for Ohio State: quarterback Kyle McCord.
Penn State has its best quarterback in a decade, Ohio State has probably its worst. Quarterback, as with most levels of football, is the most important position in college football and that’s been the difference in previous matchups between these two teams.
Sure, McCord has a 64% completion rate, 1,651 yards and an 11-1 TD-INT ratio. But if we look closer at the Purdue game last weekend, the numbers tell a different story, and there’s a key difference.
The Boilermakers brought pressure. McCord has been sacked seven times this season, three came last week. What was his completion percentage last week? 57. He was 16-28 passing with 3 touchdowns, but at least one of those touchdown throws last week would’ve been a pick-6 against the Penn State defense—which came on a throw in which he had a defender in his face.
Here comes Manny Diaz. Diaz loves to bring pressure and he has the group to do it. Over the last few weeks he’s been using the depth at defensive end to his advantage. Consistently the Nittany Lion defense has shown a three defensive end front.Almost no offensive line in the country has the skill across the board to stop 3 DEs in a full pass rush scenario, especially when they’re named Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac, and Dani Dennis-Sutton.
Purdue had three sacks; Penn State could get home five to six times. I’d expect McCord to experience pressure on more drop backs than drop backs with a clean pocket.
He’ll have to hold onto the ball longer too. The Penn State defensive backfield is the best group McCord has faced this season. One, Kalen King, is itching for a rematch with Marvin Harrison Jr.
On offense Penn State should find success. Ohio State plays a 4-2-5 defense, meaning they opt for a fifth defensive back instead of a third linebacker.
With one less linebacker on the field, there should be room to run for Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen. If they find success, Drew Allar will find success. A good running game is a quarterback’s best friend after all.
Will the Yurcich offense try to push the ball downfield through the air? Likely, no. There will be five defensive backs on the field. But Allar has consistently shown care for the ball and a willingness to take the checkdown. He consistently gets 5-7 yards to keep moving the chains instead of incompletions or interceptions.
Allar is like a racecar driver that doesn’t wreck the car and gives the team a chance to win. And like they say in racing, “you can’t win a race in turn one, but you certainly can lose one.” If you turn the ball over 4 times like Sean Clifford did last year, you have no shot to win. If the turnover battle is neutral or in their favor, the Nittany Lions have a great chance to win on Saturday.
Weather forecast: Temperature (°F): H:57/L:40, cloudy giving way to chances of rain, 45% chance of rain, WSW winds @ 10MPH. (weather.com)
Spead and over under: PSU: +5.5 O/U: 45.5 (FanDuel Sportsbook)
Prediction: Penn State 34, Ohio State 24
Penn State’s offense should find success and be able to sustain drive, like they have all season. On the other side of the ball, thedefense could smother the Ohio State offense. The Buckeyes struggled to score points against the Fighting Irish. Don’t be surprised if the Buckeyes don’t reach 24.