It’s finally game day, and the massive amount of attention spent discussing the Sandusky scandal and resulting NCAA sanctions can, at least for a few hours, be put on the back burner. We can now focus on the play of the Nittany Lions on the field, and we can talk about the X’s and O’s of the game.
Game #1 of the 2012 season features a matchup of Big Ten and MAC foes. In 2011 Penn State finished second in the Leader’s Division of the Big Ten and lost to the Houston Cougars in the TicketCity Bowl. Ohio won the MAC East Division as well as a hotly contested Famous Idaho Potato Bowl against Utah State.
Both teams are looking to start 2012 on the right foot. Here’s what I will be watching for on Saturday at Beaver Stadium:
I want to see exactly how Matt McGloin will handle being “the man” under center leading the PSU offense. Can he make the right decisions when given time to throw – and when he isn’t given time to throw? Will he be a leader in the huddle and rally the troops? It’s one thing for the team to say they believe in Matt’s ability when they are in a press conference, its another to show it on the field. Since McGloin’s first start against Michigan Oct. 30, 2010, he has always seemed to have that moxie teams seem to rally around. Sometimes that bravado has gotten him in trouble (Outback Bowl – 5 int’s against Florida), but he has never wavered. For Penn State to excel offensively on Saturday McGloin has to have that gunslinger’s mentality.
Penn State Secondary
Much has been made about the lack of depth and playing experience for the Penn State secondary. New secondary coach John Butler has his hands full trying to piece together the back end of the defense. Teams know that they will have a good shot of being able to throw the ball until the Nittany Lions can prove they can slow it down. The Darrelle Revis of Penn State, the person cahrged with shutting down the opposing team’s best WR, is going to be sophomore Adrian Amos. He has the quickness and athleticism to be one of Penn State’s best defensive players. Amos will start the season as a CB opposite senior Stephon Morris. Both will be given more lattitude as they will be playing man-to-man defense rather than the zone defense employed by former coordinator Tom Bradley. The good news is Ohio will be replacing their top 2 wide receivers from last year’s 10-win squad. The safety positions will be held down Malcom Willis and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong or Jacob Fagnano. None of those three played significant defensive minutes for the Lions last year, but will be heavily counted to slow down the no huddle offense led by QB Tyler Tettleton.
The Norman, Oklahoma junior QB is no stranger to the bright lights of the big stage. Tettleton threw for over 3,300 yards last season, had a nearly 3:1 TD-to-INT ratio (28 TDs, 10 INT’s), and was team’s second leading rusher with 658 yards and 10 TD’s. He lead his team to a 10-win season, the first 10-win season for coach Frank Solich at Ohio, as well as a bowl game victory. I am not sure playing in front of a big crowd at penn State will scare him from his gameplan.
Coming back for his second season as a starter, Coach Frank Solich has given him the reigns of his up-tempo, no huddle offense. It will be interesting to watch how Tettleton tries to accurately pick apart the young secondary of the Nittany Lions if given time to throw. Also, when he does move from the pocket, how much damage will he be able to with his legs? What kind of decision-making skills does he possess when he is put under pressure. If he can hold up under the pressure of the Penn State blitzes dialed up by defensive coordinator Ted Roof, Ohio will make this a very competitive game.
Ohio Bobcat Defense
Coach Bill O’Brien asked a question that I had been wondering myself these past few weeks, ” what are they (Ohio) looking at?” This is in regards to the film of Penn State that Ohio is using to plan their game strategy (http://espn.go.com/video/clip?id=8308867) . Since O’Brien has never been a head coach at any level, what film is Ohio using to try and decipher what tendencies Penn State has? O’Brien surmised they must be using New England Patriot film.
No matter what film they are using, this may be Coach Solich’s best defense since he got to Athens, Ohio eight years ago. Defensive coordinator Jimmy Burrow has 3 stud defensive linemen in senior DT Carl Jones, DE Corey Hastings, and second-team All-MAC DE Tremayne Scott. While the defensive line may be a stregnth, the Bobcat linebacking corps and secondary units may have even more talent and experience and will also have a chance at brilliance this season. It will be interesting to watch how the verteran defense of Ohio matches up against the relatively young Penn State offense, especially the Nittany Lion WR’s.
Penn State Fans / Beaver Stadium Atmosphere
We know that the players have been waiting for this game since spring practice was over; the fans may have been waiting even longer! The 107,282 fans at Beaver Stadium on Saturday will most definitely be raucous. For all the experience Ohio brings with them to the game, they have never played in front of a crowd that large. The fans have a chance to show the entire football community what it means to be a part of “Nittany Nation”! The atmosphere surrounding the game and the crowd noise will go a long way in helping the Nittany Lions win thier first game of the season. If Ohio can take the crowd out of it early, then they may be able to spring the upset. Watch for the Bobcats to try a long pass early in the game to test out the young Nittany Lions secondary.