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Three keys to victory from Coach Franklin
Coach James Franklin has always preached the importance of treating every game like the Super Bowl. This philosophy is rooted in treating whichever game is on the schedule like it is the most important game in the world. In #WhiteoutWeek against the Ohio State University, this truly is the Super Bowl of the Big Ten, for both the team and fans. “This has been, for four years, a great game for college football, a great game for our conference and a great game for our community,” Franklin said during his Tuesday press conference. In a monumental game as this one, staying balanced, confident and disciplined are all keys to victory.
Be consistent and maintain composure
Both Penn State and Ohio State have scored over 50 points in every game this season with the Nittany Lions (55.5 pts per game) and the Buckeyes (54.5 points per game) ranked first and second in the country for total points.
The Buckeye quarterback, Dwayne Haskins, has 16 touchdowns, more than any other Big Ten quarterback. Haskins also leads all Big Ten quarterbacks in completion percentage, passing yards and total offense. He’s been a big reason why Ohio State's offense has been so successful. “[They are] one of the most talented if not the most talented roster in the country,” Franklin said. “They’re sound. They’re well-coached. They play with tremendous effort. [They have] some really great, talented players.”
On the other side, Trace McSorley has more yards and total touchdowns than any player in Penn State history. McSorley’s big play ability is apparent in the passing game. Even as a runner, McSorley has accounted for six of Penn State's 20 rushing touchdowns this season. Both offenses are dynamic and capable of scoring a lot of points. “Games like this show you [what you are]. We’re looking for consistency. They’re going to make plays; we’re going to make plays. We can’t flinch,” Franklin said.
Continue dominating in the run game
Miles Sanders, Co-offensive Player of the Week, is off to a sensational start. He is currently sixth in the country with 495 rushing yards and is averaging seven yards per carry with five touchdowns. Penn State's running game has been dynamite this season, averaging 275 rushing yards per game with a total of 20 rushing touchdowns. The Nittany Lions are first in the country in rushing touchdowns, three more than any other team in the nation. Sander's hot-start cannot be understated, but Franklin knows it takes all 11 guys on offense to be successful. “Miles is getting a lot of credit and he should but I also think our offensive line is playing at a higher level,” Franklin said.
In four games, Sanders only has 23 fewer rushing yards than Saquon Barkley had through four games last season. With running back Mark Allen out for the season with an undisclosed injury, Ricky Slade and Sanders should see a bigger workload this week. At the end of the day, the offensive line will play a big role in the success of the running game on Saturday.
Ohio State will be without their star defensive end, Nick Bosa, for Saturday's game. Bosa is a projected top three pick in the upcoming NFL draft, but even with him out, the Buckeyes have tremendous depth on the defensive line. Ohio State’s defense is fifth in the country in sacks and first in sack yards. “We’re going to be playing one of the better defensive lines in college football. Their whole scheme is built around their [defensive] d-line,” Franklin said.
Attack Ohio State’s offensive line
Three of the last four meetings between these two teams have been decided by seven points or less. The Buckeyes are loaded with talent and like Penn State’s offense, a lot of it starts upfront. “I think the biggest difference for them is this is the best offensive line they’ve had. They’re massive. This is a big, athletic [offensive] o-line,” Franklin said. The Buckeye’s offensive line is very talented and the continuity of good offensive line and running back play has led the Buckeyes to seven 1000-yard rushers since 2010, including two running backs who are still on the roster.
The Nittany Lions need to apply pressure to Ohio State’s offensive line and to Haskins. Franklin believes the Penn State defensive ends can be "erasers", emphasizing the importance of having strong defensive line play this week. “We need that front to really be those kinds of players for our defense,” Franklin said.
110,832 fans packed into Beaver Stadium for last year's whiteout game against Michigan and it was the most fans in attendance in Penn State history. Crowd noise has always been a challenge for opposing teams travelling to Happy Valley and it’s evident with Penn State's 16 consecutive home-wins. Penn State defensive end, Shareef Miller, is no stranger to the wild conditions of a whiteout game. “It’s the best place to be,” Miller said on Tuesday. “I remember 2014 against Ohio State when I was a recruit, I wanted to commit on the spot.”
This week's game is obviously important for this season, but in terms of future recruiting, Penn State has a chance to send a national message to the rest of the country and potential recruits. After visiting Ohio State last week, Bryan Bresse, the number one recruit in the 2020 class, will be in Happy Valley for the whiteout game.
Similar to Shareef Miller’s visit in 2014, Bresee will get a chance to see Nittany Nation up close in the biggest game of the season. Franklin has high expectations for his team of course, but he anticipates Beaver Stadium to be louder than ever before come Saturday. “I want the fans and families of Ohio State to have a good experience but on the field, I want it to be the most difficult environment in the history of college football.”
The game starts at 7:30 p.m. and will be broadcasted on ABC. For the third consecutive season, ESPN’s College GameDay will be live from Penn State from 9:30 a.m. until noon. This will be the 11th full-stadium whiteout in Penn State history, with the Nittany Lions being 5-5 all-time in whiteout games.
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