Colin: I used to make fun of Trace McSorley for just chucking up jump balls and getting lucky. But he sure seems to get lucky a lot. Will this work against the OSU secondary?
Baver: I think most Buckeye fans have now seen enough of McSorley’s lobs into coverage to realize that it isn’t just luck when he completes so many of them. It helps having a 6’4” target in Juwan Johnson and a physical freak like 6’6” TE Mike Gesicki to throws lobs to. And their top WR DaeSean Hamilton isn’t small either (6’1”), and he plays the ball extremely well. It also appears that the Penn St offensive coaches do a pretty good job of finding their opponents’ matchup problems in coverage. This is a huge concern for Ohio St, as the Buckeye corners have had their problems in coverage, often not getting turned around to play the ball.
Colin: Will Urban be wise and avoid kicking to Barkley on kickoffs or be stubborn and risk giving up a big play?
Baver: Barkley is a pretty good return man, 5th nationally (at this point) in KOR avg, but I am not sure he is at the level where you kick away from him. (Knock on wood.) Maybe you take more chances with the coffin corner, and concede to giving Penn St the ball at the 35 if the kick goes out of bounds. By the way, Parris Campbell would be 2nd in the nation in KO return avg, but he is one return shy of the minimum # of returns needed to qualify. If I were James Franklin, I wouldn’t be kicking the ball to Parris.
Colin: Penn State's defense has impressive numbers. Any true NFL caliber studs on that side of the ball?
Baver: Actually, not really. All 11 starters are draft eligible, but safety Marcus Allen and DE Shareef Miller are the only guys projecting as high as 2nd day picks. But Yahoo sports recently talked with 8 coaches that have played Penn St, and every one of them commented about how well the Nittany Lion defense plays together. And they have a lot of bodies that contribute on defense, with 17 different Penn St defenders having registered sacks so far this season. That’s crazy.
Colin: Final thoughts on what can win or lose the game for Ohio State?
Baver: We talked about the problems Buckeye defenders have getting turned around in coverage – this could be a huge factor. The Buckeye LBs are also going to have to play assignment football in playing the read option with McSorley/Barkley, and will have to hold their own in pass coverage. Protecting JT is also a must. On the other hand, if JT gets decent protection and throws the ball with confidence, I think Penn St is in trouble. And if JT makes Penn St respect his arm, JK Dobbins will get his yards against the Nits #1 rated rush D. We also talked yesterday about OSU biggest advantage Saturday, and that is their D-line vs PSU’s O-line.
Colin: Breakdown Ohio State-Penn St from a Vegas perspective. We’ll pass on the other games this week, as there is really only one game that matters.
Baver: Most people I talk to think the 6 ½ pt spread is too high. That line likely has a lot to do with the situational angle, with Ohio St at home, off a bye and the Nits off the huge white-out home win against Michigan. Urban is 40-10 against the spread in gms where he has had more than 7 days to prepare for his opponent. If you know anything about picking games against the spread, that is insane. On the flip side, PSU has covered the Vegas spread in 15 of their last 17 games, another crazy stat. I wouldn’t lay 6 ½ in this one – Penn St’s offense is going to put points on the board. The McSorley/Barkley combo is as good as it gets. I think the game could go either way, but I think more things favor Ohio State in this one – there is a reason why they are just short of a touchdown favorite here. The Call: Ohio State 31 Penn State 28.