Get to Know: Penn State

A native son of the Midwest goes to college, where he plays football and graduates with a degree in psychology. Soon after, he enters the coaching profession, works his way up the ranks (spending a lot of this time instructing wide receivers), before ending up in the mighty SEC.

And now? Well, now he’s bringing an SEC flavor to the Big Ten.

Insert the name of Ohio State’s Urban Meyer or Penn State’s James Franklin. Either way, the biography still works.

Their teams, however, are headed in opposite directions.

The Nittany Lions started the season well enough, with wins over Central Florida, Akron, Rutgers, and UMass. What followed, though, were losses to Northwestern and Michigan. (Fixed for typo. Thanks, Michael!)

In those loses, Penn State combined for 19 points and 480 yards of offense (376 passing, 104 rushing). They had three turnovers. Most tellingly, they allowed ten sacks. That two-game total equals the number of sacks they gave up in their previous four victories.

If you look at just their Big Ten games, they are giving up an average of 5 sacks a contest.

Blame it on the fact that the Nittany Lions have four first-year starters on the line. Blame it on the fact that they are working with 64 healthy scholarship players and there are 16 are true freshman looking to redshirt this season.

Whatever the cause, the problems up front have bled into other areas of their game. At least one Penn State beat reporter describes quarterback Christian Hackenberg as having bad body language, looking “mopey” and “disgusted.” Hackenberg has 5 touchdowns to 7 interceptions this season.

Partly because the receivers have to get open quickly, the team is only averaging 12.1 yards/catch, which puts them 65th nationally in that category. Also two of the Lions top four receivers, right behind DaeSean Hamilton and Geno Lewis, are a running back, Bill Belton, and a 6’7″ tight end, Jesse James.

Belton is also their leading rusher, but unfortunately for him, that’s not saying all that much. Penn State is averaging 2.8 yards/carry. The number drops to 1.73 yards/carry the last two games. And the club is ranked 121st nationally in rushing yards.

On the other side of the ball, however, Penn State has put up some truly impressive numbers. The team that is dead last in the Big Ten in terms of scoring offense, is also the league’s top scoring defense (and 6th in the nation). They are only giving up 15.2 points/game.

How are they getting that done?

They aren’t forcing a lot of turnovers, only 9 total comprising of 2 fumbles and 7 interceptions, which puts them 84th in the country. They’re sort of middling when it comes to tackles-for-loss, as they rank 45th there. They aren’t even one of the top teams at getting off the field on third down. There are 32 other teams which are better.

Where they do excel in a big way is in the red zone. Opponents have made it into the Nittany Lions red zone 19 times this season, and they’ve only come away with 7 touchdowns, just one of which was the result of a pass.

Pacing the Penn State D is Canonsburg, PA native, and senior middle linebacker Mike Hull. He averages 10.7 tackles a game. The team’s next most prolific tackler is also a Pennsylvania native linebacker in Nyeem Wartman. Following him is safety Ryan Keiser, who also has an interception on his resume. Not to sound like a broken record, but he, too, is a Pennsylvania kid.

Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel has 7 tackles-for-loss this season. Defensive end Deion Barnes has added five more.

When the Penn State defense has cracked, it has tended to be in the fourth quarter. They have given up 41 points then, 20 more than they have given up in any other quarter. Meanwhile, the Penn State offense has been least productive in the fourth quarter.

All four quarters of action will air on 97.1 The Fan this Saturday. Kick off is at 8:00 p.m.

UPDATE: The fine folks at Buckeye Battle Cry wanted me to point out that Penn State hasn’t faced any world-beaters offensively. And so I’ve granted them that the top offense they’ve faced so far is ranked 66th nationally in points for. However, I’ve asked them to grant me that their opponents’ combined points/game average is 24.6 and Penn State is giving up 15.2 per. In the end, good points were made by all…expect Penn State’s opponents, that is.

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Ohio State Players Preview Rutgers

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Meyer and Barrett Preview Battle With Rutgers

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Ohio State Depth Chart: Rutgers

This is getting pretty boring, and that’s probably a good thing. In any case, here’s the latest Ohio State depth chart

What will Rutgers lineup look like? Here’s their offense:


While on the other side of the ball:


As usual, you can compare the Buckeyes most recent two-deep to their that from last game.

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Scarlet and Grey vs. Scarlet Knights

Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer previews Saturday’s game against Rutgers. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman talks about how their game plan would be different if Braxton Miller was still their quarterback. And co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash explains why the defense does what they do.

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Get to Know: Rutgers

It’s the Scarlet and Grey against the Scarlet Knights this weekend, the Joey Bosa-led Ohio State defense against quarterback Gary Nova and the Rutgers offense.

In addition to the Bosa-Nova match-up and the inevitable Flood of puns that will result from Saturday’s kick off, what should Buckeye fans expect to see this week?

Rutgers is 5-1, with wins over Washington State, Howard, Navy, Tulane and Michigan, and a loss against Penn State.

Nova threw 5 picks in that 13-10 defeat at the hands of the Nittany Lions. Since then, however, “he has completed 63.5 percent of his passes for 846 yards with seven touchdowns and one interception during a three-game winning streak.”

He’s ranked 31st nationally in passing yards, and his leading target is Leonte Carroo, who has 29 catches for 548 yards (an average of 18.9 yards/reception) and 5 touchdowns. Watch for the Knights to target Carroo on first down, as 51 percent of his catches this year have come on first down plays. Meanwhile, 21 of his 29 catches have resulted in either a Rutgers first down or touchdown.

And the Scarlet Knights are relying even more on the passing game these days, thanks to Paul James’ ACL tear. Even though James has missed the last two games with the knee injury, he still leads the Knights in rushing.

In his absence, Rutgers has only averaged 88 rushing yards a game, 2.9 yards per carry. That’s especially disappointing given what the Knights have up front. They returned all five starting offensive lineman this season, and those players have a combined 153 games under their belt. Plus, the line is only giving up 1.33 sacks a game, which ranks them 26th nationally and third in the Big Ten.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ball, the team is ranked third nationally when it comes to getting to the opponent’s quarterback. They already have recorded 24 sacks this year.

Like many of Ohio State’s recent opponents, Rutgers has given up yards, although not necessarily points this year. The Scarlet Knights are ranked 70th in total defense (396.7 yards/game) and 42nd in scoring defense (21.7 points/game).

Given the fact that Rutgers has beaten the top-ranked passing offense (Washington State) and second-ranked rushing offense (Navy) this season, those numbers are even more impressive than they might first appear.

However, they aren’t doing this by forcing turnovers. They only have three fumble recoveries and four interceptions thus far.

What they do have is a pair of 6’4″ defensive linemen, David Milewski and Darius Hamilton, who can get into the backfield. Leading the team in tackles is redshirt sophomore linebacker Steve Longa.

Rutgers will present a special teams test, but they don’t present the same challenge as Maryland did, in that their returners aren’t as dangerous, and their kicker Kyle Federico is less of a weapon than Maryland’s Ben Craddock.

But the Knights are the only team in the country to have blocked five kicks this year. In fact, since 2009, Rutgers leads the nation with 39 blocks. They’ve also blocked 2 punts this season.

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood is 0-4 against ranked teams. Perhaps more importantly, his team’s have tended to fall off later in the year. Although his head-coaching record in the first 6 games of the season is 10-2, his record in the back half of the year (including bowl games) is 5-9.

Ohio State and Rutgers will kick off at 3:30 pm this Saturday on 97.1 The Fan.

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Buckeye Bye-Week Updates

Ohio State is enjoying their second bye-week of the season. However, we were still able to catch up with the head coach, and representatives of the offense and defense, to find out what the Buckeyes are doing during what is only nominally a week off.

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