Tonight the Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Beaver Stadium in Happy Valley to play the Penn State Nittany Lions. Penn State has struggled this year, but this is a game that concerns me. It’s one of those classic “trap games” that can reach up and bite you when your opponent gets pumped up because they can salvage their season with a win..
Since the Virginia Tech loss, Ohio State has racked up a lot of yards and put a lot of points on the board. Many members of Buckeye Nation think Ohio State’s offense is an unstoppable juggernaut and terrific redshirt freshman QB J.T. Barrett is the second coming of Peyton Manning. Let’s take a deep breath, people! Ohio State’s recent performance is all well and good — but it has occurred against defenses that really aren’t comparable to Penn State. As is always the case, Penn State has a lot of tough, hard-nosed athletes on the defensive side of the ball. Statistically, the Nittany Lions are the best defense in the Big Ten, and they are especially good against the run.
With a huge home crowd behind them and roaring on every play, it’s not hard to imagine Penn State’s defense stopping the high-octane Buckeyes and keeping the score down. Sure, Penn State’s offense has not been impressive, but Ohio State’s defense has given up a lot of big plays. If the Nittany Lions can break through for a long score or two, and their defense keeps Ohio State out of the end zone, this game could turn into a close slugfest — and the longer the game is close, the more the crowd will become a factor.
As Ohio State knows all too well from the very successful Jim Tressel years, you don’t need to lead the nation in offense to win a lot of college football games. Careful game management, a solid defense that doesn’t give up long touchdowns and keeps opponents off the scoreboard, and good fundamentals in the kicking and punting game can go a very long way to make up for a weak offense. Tonight Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes might see some Tresselball from the opposing team, and Tresselball isn’t that easy to beat.