Tale of the Tape: Penn State Is Impressive, Ohio State Even More So

Ohio State football Justin Fields

Ohio State and Penn State is generally one of the more entertaining games between conference opponents every year.

No, it may not be a rivalry, but it does often decide who wins the Big Ten East, which is something that Ohio State’s rivalry game with Michigan can’t often say.

This year’s edition is no different, as the winner of Saturday’s game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions will go on to represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten Championship Game.

As you know, Ohio State is currently undefeated, sitting at 10-0 overall and 7-0 in Big Ten play. Penn State, meanwhile, is 9-1 overall and 6-1 in Big Ten play. Their lone loss on the season came two weekends ago at Minnesota.

The Buckeyes have been installed as a heavy favorite against Penn State and when you look at the numbers, it’s pretty easy to see why.

For instance, Ohio State leads the nation in scoring, averaging 51.5 points per game. Penn State is 15th in the nation and second in the Big Ten, averaging 36.8 points per game.

The Buckeyes have 70 touchdowns on the season, which is two more than anybody else, including Clemson, who has played in one more game than OSU.

Ohio State also leads the nation in scoring average in conference play, scoring 50.3 points per game. Penn State’s numbers drop quite a bit in Big Ten games, however. They are 39th in the nation and third in the B1G at 32.4 points per game.

When it comes to scoring against teams that are currently ranked, the Buckeyes drop down to sixth at 40 points per game. The Nittany Lions are 33rd in the nation at 23.7 points per game.

In terms of allowing points, Ohio State has the advantage here as well. They currently lead the nation in scoring defense at 9.8 points per game. They have allowed 11 touchdowns in 10 games this season. Penn State isn’t too far away, however, sitting at seventh in the nation and fourth in the Big Ten, allowing just 13.5 points per game.

Against ranked teams, however, again things look a bit different. Ohio State has allowed just 3.5 points per game in their two games against currently ranked teams (Cincinnati, Wisconsin). Their lone points by ranked opponents came via a drive of about 30 yards following a blocked punt.

Penn State, on the other hand, is 13th in the nation, allowing 21.3 points per game against opponents who are now ranked (Iowa, Michigan, Minnesota).

Between the end zones and points scored and points allowed comes yardage, and few teams are putting up — and putting a stop to — yardage like the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is fourth in the nation in total offense, averaging 541.7 yards per game. Penn State is 50th in the nation — and fourth in the Big Ten — with 426.6 yards per game.

If games are won up front — and they are — then Buckeye fans should like Ohio State’s chances in this game as OSU is fourth in the nation in rushing — and first among non-triple-option teams — averaging 287.4 yards per game. Their 6.2 yards per carry average is also fourth in the nation.

Penn State’s running game isn’t as dynamic, ranked 56th nationally with 173.1 yards per game. They have yet to rush for 200 yards in a game against an FBS opponent, and have only met OSU’s yard-per-carry average in two games against FBS opponents this season.

Ohio State, meanwhile, had their worst rushing game of the season this weekend, putting up 217 yards rushing at Rutgers with an average of 4.9 yards per carry.

In conference play, the Buckeyes’ numbers go up to 305.7 yards per game with a 6.5-yard-per-carry average. Penn State’s numbers drop against B1G opponents, as the Nittany Lions are averaging just 165 yards rushing per game on 4.1 yards per carry.

Stopping the run, however, is an area where Penn State is actually doing better than Ohio State. The Nittany Lions are fourth in the nation and first in the Big Ten, allowing just 75.9 yards rushing per game. The Buckeyes are sixth nationally and second in the Big Ten with 90.4 yards per game on the ground allowed.

Against ranked opponents, Ohio State remains at sixth nationally with 95.0 yards per game, but the Nittany Lions fall to 13th in the nation and second in the Big Ten at 110.7 yards per game.

Interestingly, the passing games are fairly similar. The Buckeyes are ranked No. 45 in the nation throwing for 254.3 yards per game, and Penn State is No. 46 with 253.5 yards per game.

Ohio State is quite a bit more efficient throwing the ball, however. The Buckeyes are fourth in the nation in pass efficiency, while Penn State is 31st. Ohio State is just one of two Power 5 schools (Utah) with only one interception thrown on the season. The Buckeyes’ 38:1 touchdown-to-interception ratio is the best in the nation.

Penn State’s 23:6 ratio isn’t bad either.

Against the pass, the Buckeyes have also been special. While yards passing allowed isn’t a great stat, it is notable that Ohio State leads the nation in passing yards allowed at 126.0 yards per game. More important than passing yards allowed, however, is pass efficiency defense, where the Buckeyes are second in the nation and Penn State is 30th.

Ohio State is allowing just 4.9 yards per pass attempt, which is the best mark in the nation. In fact, it’s better than No. 2 Clemson by a full half-yard.

These two teams also represent two of the best pass-rushing teams in the nation. Ohio State’s 42 sacks is tied for second in the nation, while Penn State’s 33 sacks is good for 12th.

Both teams rank outside the Top 50 in terms of protecting their own quarterbacks, however, as Penn State (60th) is allowing 1.9 sacks per game and Ohio State (75th) is allowing 2.2. That number for Ohio State drops to 95th in conference play, allowing 2.4 sacks per game.

In terms of explosive plays allowed, no team in the nation has allowed fewer scrimmage plays of 10 yards or more than the Buckeyes (82). Penn State is 20th in the nation having allowed 117 such plays.

Ohio State is third in the nation in 20-yard plays allowed (24) and first in plays of 30 yards (7) given up. They are tied for 10th in 40-yard plays (5). Penn State has allowed 38 20-yard plays, 18 30-yard plays, and eight 40-yard plays.

With neither team giving up an abundance of big plays, they force teams to be patient and move the ball station to station. That only works if your third-down defense is outstanding, which Ohio State’s is.

The Buckeyes are third in the nation in third downs, allowing opponents to convert just 26.85% of the time. Penn State is 25th at 32.91%.

Offensively, picking up third downs makes an offense a pain to defend, which also perfectly describes the Ohio State offense with quarterback Justin Fields at the helm.

The Buckeyes are first in the nation in converting third downs (58.54%), which is quite a bit better than Penn State, who is fifth in the Big Ten and 45th in the nation at 42.54%.

All in all, this has been a long way to say that this Ohio State team is really, really good in an awful lot of statistical categories. So much so that even a team like Penn State, who is well-placed in a number of statistical areas, is usually a scroll or two off of the computer screen in relation to the Buckeyes.

Will there be as much distance on the field this coming Saturday? Vegas tends to think so, but we will obviously have to wait and see.

Later in the week, we will look at some individuals in this game and the numbers they are producing as well.

4 Responses

  1. One of Ohio State’s major advantages going into this game is coaching. Game day management where I give Day a huge advantage over Franklin. Day and his staff seem so much better coordinated than any I have seen. The talent on the field is matched by the talent on the sidelines!

  2. Picking nits, but

    “When it comes to scoring against teams that are currently ranked, the Buckeyes drop down to sixth at 40 points per game. The Nittany Lions are 33rd in the nation at 23.7 points per game.”

    How many teams did we knock out of the rankings?

  3. I wonder how this would look if you could compare the Buckeyes first three quarters against PSU’s – I know it may not be quite apples to apples but it seems to me that the stats would look even more favorably toward the Buckeyes if somehow first team vs first team stats were compared. After all, I’m not certain that there has been any game where the starters were in a full four quarters which in of itself is astounding.

  4. I like checking out the B1G/NCAA stats on Sundays after our games when we are doing well. This year it’s unreal how well we are doing on offense AND defense. Being ranked so high is so many categories across the board is incredible. It adds to my excitement that this team is something special.

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