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James Franklin predicted how Ohio State would beat Penn State weeks ago

Early in the season, James Franklin showed Ohio State the blueprint for beating the Penn State offense.



Penn State Football, James Franklin, Drew Allar, Ohio State
Oct 21, 2023; Columbus, Ohio, USA; Ohio State Buckeyes defensive end JT Tuimoloau (44) sacks Penn State Nittany Lions quarterback Drew Allar (15) during the second half of the NCAA football game at Ohio Stadium. Ohio State won 20-12.

Penn State football fell from the ranks of the unbeaten Saturday, losing 20-12 to Ohio State in Columbus. Perhaps as frustrating as the seventh consecutive defeat from the Buckeyes was the manner in which the Nittany Lions lost the game. As seemingly happens almost every year, the Penn State defense was ready for the stage, only to have the offense squander away opportunity after opportunity. It was a recipe for defeat that was evident very early on Saturday, as Drew Allar and the offense struggled to find any semblance of a rhythm. But looking back, it was apparent to James Franklin and those in the Penn State program weeks ago what the Ohio State defense would try to do to slow down the Nittany Lions

James Franklin said defenses will force Drew Allar to beat them

Rewind to the start of fall camp. While everyone was in on the open secret that Drew Allar would be named the new Penn State starting QB, questions remained about how the offense would change with the sophomore under center.

Those questions were seemingly answered early in the season, as Allar opened the year to the tune of 529 yards passing and four scores over the first two games.

After the win over Delaware, James Franklin circled back to a message he had repeated during the offseason about how opposing defenses would attack the Penn State offense with a new QB.

“I think if you’re the first two opponents, specifically the first opponent, you say, ‘I’m not going to let Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen beat us. I’m going to make a first-time starting QB prove that he can do it,'” Franklin said.

“No matter what the hype has been like, he’s still got to prove that he’s done it. Well, now I think the defensive coordinators moving forward, you’re in a tougher spot,” he continued. “You got two running backs that can be challenging. And you got a QB that’s shown that he’ll do it and can make the throws and make the plays. So now, there’s enough evidence out there that as a defensive coordinator, you’re questioning, ‘What is our model for beating Penn State in terms of our offense?'”

Ohio State took Franklin’s advice

Six weeks later, it turns out the model hasn’t changed.

Penn State actually had early success in the run game, with Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combining for 50 yards in the first quarter. But as soon as Ohio State adjusted to account for the run, the Nittany Lions offense looked lost.

Penn State only had five of 14 drives go for more than 20 yards on the day. The Nittany Lions went a combined 2-19 on third and fourth down, both conversions coming on the final series of the game.

The Buckeyes were set on making Drew Allar beat them. The 19-year-old looked rushed the entire afternoon, struggling to complete the short and intermediate passes that had defined his season so far. Allar finished 18-42 with 191 yards and a touchdown. Clearly, the Ohio State strategy worked.

Buckeyes showed the model for beating Penn State

Saturday’s outcome raises many questions. Why didn’t the Nittany Lions come up with a counterpunch when it seemed so obvious, even back in September, what Ohio State was going to do? Why weren’t the tight ends more heavily involved in the passing game when it was clear that the Penn State WRs were incapable of getting open? Why did James Franklin and Mike Yurcich abandon concepts like the T formation that had brought success through six games?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the answers to any of those questions now. But if Penn State football still wants to keep its season goals alive, the solutions must be found quickly. Because Ohio State yesterday, and James Franklin weeks ago, laid out the blueprint for beating Penn State football in 2023.

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A third-generation Penn Stater, Matt is Editor-in-Chief for Basic Blues Nation, co-host of the podcast PSU Tailgate Talk, and a credentialed member of the Penn State football media. Matt also works as a staffer in the Pennsylvania General Assembly. Matt lives in central Pennsylvania with his wife and a small army of pets.