Three reasons Penn State could give Ohio State problems Saturday

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The shine has been taken off of the matchup between Ohio State and Penn State just a wee bit after the Nittany Lions fell to Illinois last Saturday, but it’s still a ranked matchup that will go a long way to determining the Big Ten East race — and more. And you can bet Penn State will be up for this prime-time affair in Columbus.

If there’s been one program that has been the closest in talent to the Buckeyes recently, it’s been Penn State (last year’s COVID-19 year notwithstanding). The Nittany Lions might only have one win in the last nine tries against OSU, but there were some pretty monumental showdowns that were about as close as they can get over the last few years.

And there’s reason to believe that this one could be a tough ballgame as well. Ohio State has looked almost unstoppable on offense as of late, and Penn State might be trending in the wrong direction, but don’t let that fool you. The Nittany Lions dealt with some injuries last week and are on the mend for this one. Ryan Day expects Penn State to bring its A-game, and so do we.

We’re not predicting a Nittany Lion upset in the ‘Shoe, but there are some reasons to believe that Penn State could cause some issues for Ohio State. Here are three reasons why this game could be tougher than you think.

NEXT … The best defense Ohio State has faced all year

Penn State has been very solid on defense

The Nittany Lion defense has given up some yards this season, but it’s been a bit of a bend but don’t break unit that’s been tough to score points on. In fact, Penn State is No. 6 in all of FBS in scoring defense at 14.71 points per game.

The last team that gave up yards but made it difficult to finish off drives was Oregon. OSU put up over 600 yards of offense on the Ducks, but couldn’t get off the pond and into the end zone. Because of some missed fourth-down tries and field goal attempts, the Buckeyes went down on that fateful night. They’ll need to cash in Saturday night against a similar type of defense.

NEXT … Skill and scheme

Penn State has good skill and scheme

Of any team in the league, Penn State probably has talent on the roster closest to Ohio State. You could make a case for Michigan, but the Nittany Lions’ personnel is probably a little better. Add that to a scheme that has given OSU fits at times over the last few years with the RPO, dual-threat of the QB, and skill receivers, and the Nittany Lions could make life a little more difficult on the OSU defense than what we’ve seen the last few weeks.

Now, all of that has a caveat next to it with how healthy quarterback Sean Clifford is, but if he’s anywhere near 100 percent, he has thrived under new offensive coordinator Mike Yurcich. Also, speaking of which, there’s clearly some familiarity there with former OSU assistant Yurcich that could lead to some well-thought-out principles Saturday in the ‘Shoe.

NEXT … The “rivalry”

Penn State gets up more for Ohio State than any other Big Ten team

To be the best you have to beat the best. Penn State knows this and so does head coach James Franklin with some of the comments he’s made in the past about his team not quite being where OSU is. Also, the Nittany Lions don’t really have a natural rival in the league, at least not according to everyone else outside Happy Valley.

Talk to a Penn State fan or player and they clearly have the game against Ohio State circled every year. OSU has Michigan, but the Nittany Lions will prepare with more focus and more intentions, ready to come out and spoil the party this weekend. We’ll see if they have what it takes to make a game of it, but you know the emotion will be there.

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