Everybody knows that one of the best parts of being a sports fan is debating and dissecting the most (and least) important questions in the sporting world with your friends. So, we’re bringing that to the pages of LGHL with our favorite head-to-head column: You’re Nuts.
In You’re Nuts, two LGHL staff members will take differing sides of one question and argue their opinions passionately. Then, in the end, it’s up to you to determine who’s right and who’s nuts.
Today’s Question: How will today’s Ohio State-Penn State game play out?
Jami’s Take: Ohio State 35, Penn State 10
Night games at Ohio Stadium usually bring a bit of added excitement, but while the matchup between the Buckeyes and Penn State seemed to hold that promise early in the season, this is no longer a matchup between two top-5 teams.
That does not mean all hope for a great game is lost. The No. 20 Nittany Lions, coming off a road loss at Iowa and an insane loss to unranked Illinois in a game that went into 9 overtimes, will be eager to avoid their third consecutive loss.
But as the season has progressed, the No. 5 Buckeyes seem to have found their stride right as Penn State seems to have lost its footing. Add to that the fact that Penn State’s starting quarterback Sean Clifford might not be at 100% yet, and the Buckeyes are well-rested coming off their bye week, and it seems like the Buckeyes’ game to lose.
I don’t anticipate a blowout necessarily, but I do think the Buckeyes will be steadily in control.
I would love to see the primetime energy throw some surprises our way and make it a close game for the sake of excitement, but the reality is, the Buckeyes are fighting to keep their playoff hopes alive, and they know that at its best, this is a Penn State team that could put an end to those dreams. And so, I am expecting nothing less than Ryan Day’s strongest army.
This game is particularly crucial for freshman quarterback C.J. Stroud, who has been lighting things up in October.
With whispers of the almighty Heismans already starting, Stroud has a massive opportunity to boost those prospects this week. That his impressive stats have come against lesser opponents than Penn State mean that he needs to showcase his abilities with the big boys.
After throwing for 484 yards in the loss to Oregon and then sitting out the Akron game due to injury, Stroud has thrown for 1,032 yards in the last three games. He’s also put up 14 touchdowns and no interceptions. I expect him to continue this momentum and throw for 300+ yards and two touchdowns against Penn State.
That doesn’t even get into the TreVeyon Henderson of it all. The freshman running back is sprinting toward a number of freshman records, including Maurice Clarett’s record 18 touchdowns in the 2002 National Championship season. Henderson, who has already put up 14 touchdowns this year, needs only 5 more to own that record. I think he’ll carry for 80 yards and another touchdown today.
I also think OSU’s defense has a chance to show they’re past their growing pains. Penn State has struggled to run the ball all season, ranking 99th in rushing success rate, and if the Buckeye defense can capitalize on this, Penn State could have a tough time getting themselves into the endzone.
I’d love to see a great game between these two teams, I really would. In fact, just a few weeks ago, this was a game I predicted the Buckeyes could lose. But the promise that this matchup would be one for the ages has slowly fizzled as the season progressed, and I’ve changed my mind about how I think this game will play out.
My prediction: Stroud starts to make a strong case for the Heisman. Buckeyes win, 35-10.
Matt’s Take: Ohio State 49, Penn State 13
Since Ryan Day has proven himself to be one of the worst coaches in America when it comes to winning coin tosses, Penn State will win and defer to the second half. That means that the Buckeyes will start the game with the ball, and that will prove to have been the first of many terrible in-game coaching decisions for James Franklin in his final game against Ohio State as Penn State’s coach.
Ohio State is 1-6 on coin tosses this season.— Spencer Holbrook (@SpencerHolbrook) October 23, 2021
With the ball, C.J. Stroud will lead the Buckeyes on a 75-yard, eight play drive. He will go 5-for-5 for 42 yards while TreVeyon Henderson will have three rushes for 33 yards and will score the game’s first touchdown.
As has been the case many times for Ohio State this season, the Nits will have a successful first drive. quarterback Sean Clifford will avoid a Buckeye rush and find wide receiver Jahan Dotson for a 47-yard pickup. However, despite the chunk play, PSU is 107th nationally when it comes to red zone touchdown percentage (50%), and the OSU defense will bow up forcing Franklin into a cowardly field goal on 4th-and-3 from the 16.
Before the end of the first period, Stroud will connect with Chris Olave for a 27-yard score. That touchdown reception will be CO2’s 31st of his legendary Buckeye career, moving him out of a tie with Devin Smith and into second place all on his own, just three TDs behind the iconic David Boston (don’t worry, Olave won’t be done for the day).
At the end of the first quarter, Ohio State will be up 14-3.
After Dotson’s unencumbered first drive, Matt Barnes will find ways to keep him bracketed throughout the quarter, and the Nits will punt three times in the second 15 minutes, gaining only a combined 34 yards.
The Buckeyes on the other hand will have a much more successful period. While mixing up the pass and run, Henderson will score his second touchdown of the game on a wheel route in which he runs through, around, and over Penn State defenders, giving OSU a 21-3 lead.
While Jesse Mirco will, in fact, be called on to punt once before halftime, otherwise, the Buckeye offense will continue to be practically perfect and unstoppable. Last week, the Illini rushed for 357 yards against the PSU defense, and while Ryan Day’s offense will be far more balanced, the second quarter is when Henderson officially takes over and fully launches himself into the Heisman Trophy conversation.
Halftime: Ohio State 28, Penn State 3
Ohio State Stats:
C.J. Stroud: 13-for-16, 135 yards, 2 touchdowns
TreVeyon Henderson: 124 yards rushing, 26 yards receiving, 2 total touchdowns
Penn State Stats:
Sean Clifford: 4-for-9, 66 yards
Jahon Dotson: 2 receptions, 51 yards
The Nits get the ball first after the break and they change things up this time out. Rather than trying to get the ball to their best offensive weapon — Dotson — they zig when the Buckeyes expect them to zag. The open the third quarter on the ground with a mix of designed quarterback runs and RPOs. Clifford has three first down runs on the drive and suddenly PSU is inside the OSU 30. However, the defensive staff makes a change and brings Craig Young in to essentially spy on the PSU QB and the drive stops there, but again Franklin’s natural instincts to do the absolute wrong thing leads him to kick a 47-yard field goal.
Jordan Stout connects to cut the Buckeye lead to three touchdowns (plus a two-point conversion), 28-6.
On their first drive of the second half, Stroud finds Jaxon Smith-Njigba for a 44-yard catch-and-run touchdown to extend the lead yet again. OSU caps off the quarter with Henderson’s third TD of the game, and his day is over with the home team leading under the lights 42-6.
While Day and company don’t completely pull all of the starters on either side of the ball, the fourth frame sees far more rotation. This does lead to the Nits padding their stats a little bit and Clifford does connect with tight end Brenton Strange for PSU’s lone touchdown of the game.
Eventually, Pennsylvania’s own Kyle McCord will replace Stroud, and while the OSU offense won’t score again on the day, they will move the ball, but will be forced to turn it over on downs in the middle of the fourth quarter, just outside of the red zone.
From there, the Buckeye defense will continue to clamp down on Clifford, sacking him and knocking him out of the game. On the subsequent punt, Emeka Egbuka will do what no Buckeye has done since Jalin Marshall in 2014 against Indiana and he will return a punt for a TD, moving the score to 49-13, which is where the game will end.
Final: Ohio State 49, Penn State 13
Ohio State Stats:
C.J. Stroud: 24-for-31, 274 yards, 3 touchdowns
TreVeyon Henderson: 251 yards rushing, 62 yards receiving, 3 total touchdowns
Penn State Stats:
Sean Clifford: 11-for-33, 145 yards passing, 41 yards rushing
Jahon Dotson: 7 receptions, 112 yards
Who has the right answer to today’s question?
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