Which Christian Hackenberg Shows Up?
In Hackenberg’s last two contests (@ Indiana, H-Michigan), his line reads 53-99 for 645 yards, 6 TDs and 2 INTs. The previous two contest before that (H-UCF, H-Kent State), his stats were 34-63 for 438 yards, 2 TDs and 1 INT. In order for Penn State to have a chance to upset Ohio State, Christian Hackenberg must be, not only the leader and general on the offensive side of the ball, but also the one that takes care of the ball and makes sound decision in the passing game.
Ohio State is a team that will give up yards through the air. Ranking 6th in the Big Ten in pass defense allowing 240.7 yards per game, the Buckeyes have had trouble stopping the pass. Looking at film from the Buckeye’s game last week at home with Iowa, the Hawkeyes were able to dink and dunk their way down the filed, hitting the TE underneath and the RB in the flat. Those plays, allowed Iowa to take mid-range and deeper shots later in the game. Look for Penn State to do the same thing tonight. Hack must allow the game to slow down, and take what the defense gives him. Expect a lot of check downs to TE Jesse James and Kyle Carter. Also, look for Bill Belton to be featured in the passing game tonight.
If the Hackenberg of the last two weeks, the one that made solid decisions and confident throws, shows up tonight, Penn State should be able to move the ball down the field via the passing game. If the Hackenberg of a month ago appears, the one that overshot open receivers and forced passes, it will likely be a long night for the Nittany Lions.