Inside Slant — Five Questions with the Penn State Beat

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’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


7 Responses

  1. In my opinion the key to this game is Ohio State’s linebacker play. The DBs are the DBs – they are not great but good enough if the DL gets pressure and controls the pocket. The LB group has really been up and down all year. The OU game was a nightmare. What I took away from the PSU-Michigan game is that the Penn State offense is much more creative than it appears and puts tremendous pressure on the Linebackers. Michigan’s D spent the game mostly on their heels and confused. They overpursued. They bit on perceived keys and put themselves out of position. They had no answer for Gesicki or Barkley out of the backfield. I really think that this is OSUs biggest weakness for this game. They don’t have an answer for Gesicki either. And despite the pressure the DL gets — they seem to suffer from some of the same weaknesses that Michigan had last week. I really think this is the biggest mismatch that favors Penn State. Barkley and Gesicki against the OSU LB. I really hope I am wrong – but, if OSUs LB play isn’t heads and shoulders better than it has been in the last 2 years — it is going to be tough for the defense to get off the field. No matter how good Barrett and the offense is, we won’t be able to keep up.

  2. Bilich – me and my friends have watch Penn State play and we have been impressed at times and puzzled at other times just like watching our Buckeyes play this year. Our man Tony G. hit it on the head in one of his articles where he mentioned how much discussion and thinking and worry has gone into this game and that it will actually be sad once this game is over. I will not speak for Buckeye nation, but just myself and I am worried about this game and I do not have a clue how it will turn out. My Bucks could beat you by a few scores, but your Lions could also beat my Bucks by a few scores. Really impressed by your QB against Michigan so I think winner of this game will be determined by the QBs. I do not know what we will get from JT so nervous but hopeful. Our pass defense is just okay, but do our coaches get creative and go after your QB maybe with even 5 DL in the game so he has no time? We have been good against the run, but still we have given up some long runs to much lesser backs than your man. Your man is a stud! I love Urban as a head coach, but kind of want him replaced as special teams coach. We never block kicks anymore or even get close on punts, and our kickoff coverage team is scary and our return game is just okay. We need to bring the intensity as Oklahoma had a lot more than we did at the Shoe. Lack of intensity also worries me about the Bucks. We have a lot of talent and overall our health is very good and since Oklahoma we have played very well against lesser competition so now we play a team easily in the top 8 of the country. In my opinion better than Oklahoma. So I am very excited for this game and feel like we can win by 21 points, but also very worried that our offense will play like crap again verses strong competition like Clemson and Oklahoma leaving our defense on the field too long and our young secondary exposed and we lose by 21 points. After midnight now so its game day and I can not wait. Actually glad it is not a night game. GO Bucks!

  3. Totally agree with if OSU has truly found its identity.

  4. Very well stated based on fact. I really think this comes down to who wants it more and that answer is obvious. Bucks know they cannot afford a misstep. At least a ten point win for the home team that will sell the farm for this one.

  5. . . .if the blocking holds.

    He’s right. Barkley doesn’t seem like he can grind it. He seems to require big chunks. If Ohio State limits the big chunks and stays disciplined, PSU is not going to score enough or hold the ball enough to take and hold a lead. On the flip side, it’s rare that Penn State defense has been able to be effective against Ohio State for any significant period of time in game.

    If Ohio State has truly found their identity on offense, the quality of PSU’s defense won’t really matter. Sure, they’ll hold us below 50, but not below 30.

    Ohio State wins this one by 2 TDs.

    OSU – 35
    PSU – 21

    1. Spoken like a true Buckeye fan that hasn’t watched Penn State play at all this year.

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