Kirk Herbstreit breaks down his expectation for Penn State-Ohio State showdown
Riding a two-game losing streak, No. 20 Penn State is looking to bounce back off an upset loss to Illinois when they head to Columbus to take on No. 5 Ohio State.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit gave some of his takes on the game.
The Nittany Lions struggled on offense against the Illini, putting up just 18 points on their home turf. The possibility that the Nittany Lions just had an off day is something Herbstreit takes into account.
“Well, I’m a little bit different than everybody else I’ve heard from this week. It’s almost like sometimes we forget the sport we cover,” explained Herbstreit via ESPN’s Press Room. “You know, we try to make sense out of things that happened. For example, well, Penn State lost to Iowa and they got beat by Illinois, Ohio State’s going to kill them. Maybe they will, I don’t know. I’ve just seen it too many times that when a team that has talent like Penn State has an off day – they were in a fog against Illinois. They took advantage of it.
“Bret Bielema is doing a good job in Champaign. He’s got a team that’s growing each week. And Penn State was just in one of those funks. And to think that they’ve forgotten how to play football is ludicrous. Too much pride on that roster. Too much talent on that roster. They have been backed into a corner. They have a chance to salvage their season by beating Ohio State in Columbus. I don’t know if they will, but I expect them to be the kind of team you would expect them to be, and not the team that played against Illinois last week.”
Herbstreit considers a healthy Sean Clifford will be needed to give PSU any chance, giving the Nittany Lions an opportunity to come up with the explosive plays that will be needed to keep up with Ohio State’s explosive receiver corps.
“The concern you have is how healthy is Sean Clifford,” explained Herbstreit. “Can they run the football? That has been an issue for them at the line of scrimmage, and the way Ohio State can score, I mean Ohio State, I think, has the most explosive offense right now in the country with the way C.J. Stroud is settled in. The three best receivers on one team in the country – Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Jaxon Smith-Njigba – and tight end Jeremy Ruckert, who’s an NFL tight end. TreVeyon Henderson at running back is a freshman. It’s an embarrassment of riches and now the quarterback has experience and reps under his belt. They are really dangerous – I think they’ve scored 57 points a game the last four games. And a few of those games they’ve had to kind of pull back. They could have probably scored well over that, so that’s who you’re playing, and you’ve got an offense that’s kind of stuck in second gear since Sean Clifford got hurt against Iowa.
“So, if he’s healthy – which their head coach James Franklin came out and said he expects his quarterback to be 100% healthy. If he’s healthy, Penn State’s going to have to try to create explosive plays in the run and pass game to stay up with Ohio State. I think that’s the only way that they’re able to be competitive and win the game. Two areas: create turnovers and create explosive plays on offense in the pass game. Those would be the two things that have to happen, I think, for Penn State to be in this game and try to pull off the upset.”
The Nittany Lions and Buckeyes kick off in primetime on Saturday, Oct. 30 in Columbus, with a 7:30 PM EST kickoff scheduled.