You have received plenty of breakdowns and thoughts and picks from the Ohio State side of the media world, but we strive for well-roundedness around here as often as we can find it.
As such, we are happy to have PennLive.com’s Dustin Hockensmith here to provide a keener insight into the Penn State side of things.
As we do in big games like this, we are going with the tried-and-true five-question format concerning Ohio State’s upcoming opponent.
This Q&A adheres to the international Q&A guidelines — I am the Q and Dustin is the A.
Let’s get to know a little bit more about Penn State.
1. What were Indiana and Northwestern able to do in order to contain Saquon Barkley on the ground?
Indiana and Northwestern managed to play to their own strengths and exploit a Penn State vulnerability. There was confusion up front in some cases and too many one-on-one losses from Penn State’s linemen. Barkley didn’t see much green grass ahead of him facing crowded boxes and steady penetration. Both of those issues looked better in the win over Michigan, which was helped by new wrinkles and a more dangerous Trace McSorley in the running game.
2. Where do you see Ohio State’s biggest advantage in this game?
The offensive line was better against Michigan, but this Ohio State defense poses even more problems with a deep, disruptive line and athletic linebackers. Give those guys two weeks and draw up stunts, twists and exotic blitzes and there’s real potential to blow up some of Penn State’s best laid plans. Playing at home will help them explode off the ball, too.
3. Where do you see Penn State’s biggest advantage in this game?
At its best, Penn State’s offense tests every defense horizontally and vertically, in the running game, the short passing game and down the field. Saquon Barkley, of course, is at the root of those plans and is too versatile to not surrender an advantage on at least a handful of snaps. The Lions rediscovered their deep passing game against Michigan and created chunk plays there, too. Penn State’s offense is fluid enough to take advantage of any defense’s weaknesses … if the blocking holds up.
4. Please give me an outside opinion of J.T. Barrett. Is he an elite college quarterback? Overrated? Typical four-year starter? All of it? None of it?
The outside perception of Barrett might not differ much from a fan base that appreciates his contributions but remains skeptical. Can he test Penn State’s secondary down the field? If the field is compact near the line of scrimmage and designed to limit his rushing contributions, can he still thrive? Penn State will play one-on-one on the outside and try to create a numbers advantage near the line of scrimmage. If Barrett rises to the occasion and beats yet another game plan to slow him down, the Buckeyes win.
5. How does Penn State get the win?
If Penn State’s defense comes to play and gets validation against its most dangerous opponent yet, the Lions can win. The PSU offense might sputter occasionally, but it’s going to score enough points to give the Lions a sporting chance. The PSU defense is still relatively untested, but it is better, faster and deeper than it was last season. The chess match between Penn State DC Brent Pry and Ohio State OC Kevin Wilson will be huge.
(You can also read some of my thoughts on Saturday’s game over at PennLive.com.)