Many factors surrounding Saturday’s matchup between Penn State and Ohio State are the same as in years past. The Nittany Lions travel to Columbus, where the Penn State football program hasn’t won since 2011. Ohio State is the higher-ranked team and is favored to win for the 14th consecutive season. But those facts aside, something about this matchup feels different. For the first time in almost a decade, many in Happy Valley think Penn State could, and maybe even should, take Ohio State head-on and win. Much of this optimism is likely rooted in that, for the first time under James Franklin, Penn State has a QB in Drew Allar that can truly compete with the elite teams of college football. On Monday, the man tasked with slowing down Allar, Ohio State DC Jim Knowles, explained how he plans to spoil the homecoming for the Ohio native.
Drew Allar has been a rock for Penn State this season
Expectations for Drew Allar were high coming into 2023. And midway through the year, it’s hard to say he hasn’t delivered. Through six games, the sophomore QB has completed 65% of his passes for 1,254 yards and 12 touchdowns.
The gaudy numbers you’d expect from a former five-star may not always be there, but Allar has been a stabilizing force for Penn State football this year. Even on the road, where Allar carries a much lower 52% completion rate compared to 73% at home, the Penn State QB has been a rock for the Nittany Lion offense. The sophomore touts an unblemished touchdown-to-interception ratio, and maintains the longest active streak for the most consecutive passes without an interception.
This consistency makes Penn State football coach James Franklin feel comfortable about where Allar is heading into the biggest game of his career. “The thing that makes me feel good about Drew is that he’s very humble. And his approach is consistent in how he prepares and how he works,” Franklin said after last week’s win over UMass. “That’s comforting, as a head coach and as an offensive coordinator, to have guys like that.”
Ohio State DC Jim Knowles explains keys to defending the Nittany Lion passing attack
Over in Columbus, Ohio State DC Jim Knowles must find a way to do something no other team has this season: stopping the Penn State offense. For Knowles, one of the critical factors in Saturday’s game will be throwing off the rhythm between Drew Allar and the Nittany Lion WRs.
“You’ve got to challenge receivers in the intermediate area. He’s really good at those passes,” Knowles said today when asked how to defend Allar. “And you have to be able to put some pressure on him and [give] some different looks to him just to get him thinking. We have to push our rush and really defend that intermediate zone.”
While the Nittany Lion offense hasn’t necessarily been flashy in 2023, that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been lethal. Penn State leads the nation in time of possession, and ranks No. 5 in scoring offense. The Nittany Lions have scored at least 30 points in the last 13 games, winning the last 11 by at least 14 points.
The Ohio State defense is equally as stout. The Buckeyes come into this game ranked No. 3 in scoring defense and No. 4 in passing defense. On Saturday, something will have to give. Kickoff between Penn State football and Ohio State is set for noon on FOX.
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