Weekly Game Day: O’Leary, O’Brien, O My! Edition

Penn State clings to about a five point favorite by the odds makers, when the Orlando Golden

Knights of UCF invade Beaver Stadium this Saturday at 6pm.

This will be an interesting test for a 2-0 Nittany Lion squad that has not really been challenged yet.  But this is still not the Knights of Columbus or the wolvereenies of Ann Arbor either.  This is a very winnable game.

Statistically, here are how the two teams match up (from the NCAA website):

UCF PSU
3rd Down Conversion Pct 24 123
3rd Down Conversion Pct Defense 54 16
4th Down Conversion Pct. 1
4th Down Conversion Pct. Defense 70
Fewest Penalties Per Game 11 30
Fewest Penalty Yards Per Game 10 29
First Downs Defense 20 11 20 11
First Downs Offense 67 67 67 67
Fumbles Lost 1 106
Fumbles Recovered 22 56
Kickoff Return Defense 57 100
Kickoff Returns 100 55
Net Punting 58 96
Pass Sacks Allowed 90 110
Passes Had Intercepted 1 95
Passes Intercepted 65 36
Passing Offense 42 24
Passing Yards Allowed 13 24
Passing Yards Per Completion 9 45
Punt Return defense 38 83
Punt Returns 30 22
Red Zone Defense 5 75
Red Zone Offense 44 1
Rushing Defense 16 8 16 8
Rushing Offense 68 73 68 73
Scoring Defense 4 20 4 20
Scoring Offense 38 53 38 53
Tackles for Loss Allowed 88 63
Team Pass Sacks 67 34
Team Passing Efficiency 11 36
Team Passing Efficiency Defense 45 16
Team Tackles for Loss 15 39
Time of Possession 40 58
Total Defense 7 10 7 10
Total Offense 59 45 59 45
Turnover Margin 20 113
Turnovers Gained 54 54
Turnovers Lost 1 113
Winning Percentage 1 1
Averages 35.00 49.77 34.88 35.88

As we can see, the Golden Knights have a decided edge in overall statistics, 35.92 to 51.08 for the average NCAA ranking in all these categories.

But wait just a minute.  Total Defense is about even.  PSU has a slight edge in Total Offense, and even better in passing offense.  We suck really bad in just about any turnover category, but we are ranked right there with UCF in turnovers gained.  Our third down percentage is dead last.  L-O-U-S-Y.  Yet, we score points and win games, so does that stat really matter?

If you look just at the major offensive and defensive stats, and pretty much ignore special teams, penalties and turnovers, you can see the two teams are pretty evenly matched.

It is pretty clear that PSU has to stop turning the ball over, and improve on third down conversions.  Do those two things, and throw in home field advantage, and PSU wins this in a nail biter.

USA Today ranked all 125 teams preseason, with PSU at 37.  UCF was 42.  Both are 2-0.

You can’t coach turnovers.  What will happen will happen.  But I think PSU will turn that around.  Special teams struggled early last season, and got better as the season went on.  I still worry about Ficken, but the young man has done nothing to suggest he can’t get the job done.  Punting is always an adventure, but I will be surprised if the outcome of this game turns on a single punt or two.

Many people don’t remember how often Michael Robinson turned the ball over during the early games of the 2005 season.  He practiced with a football covered in silk to try and train himself to hang onto the ball better.  And he did.  In the Ohio State game, it was the Buckeye fumble that sealed the game for Penn State.  Now this is not 2005.  UCF is not Ohio State, and Hackenberg is not Michael Robinson.  But my point is that teams that are turning the ball over, frequently correct that problem for no rhyme or reason.  Some continue to fumble things away.

I think Penn State wins and beats the spread.  That and a call to Geico can save you 15% on your car insurance.

In the Big Ten this week:

Minnesota takes on Western Illinois (NL.)  GO GOPHERS!

Illinois will play Washington at Soldier Field.  Washington is a 9.5 point favorite.  GO HUSKIES!

Nebraska is a 4.5 point favorite over UCLA at home.  GO HUSKERS!

Iowa is a 2.5 point favorite over cross state rival Iowa State.  GO HAWKS!

Indiana hosts Bowling Green and is favored by 2.5.  GO HOOSIERS!

Akron (37 point dogs) travels to the Big OutHouse to take on THEM.  Whatever.

The Buckeyes actual leave Columbus in September to play Cal.  (NL due to the status of Braxton.)  GO CAL!

The Spartans warm-up against Youngstown State, in prep for the Irish next week.  GO SPARTY!

Speaking of the Irish, they are favored over Purdue by 20.5.  GO BOILERS!

Northwestern is a 31 point favorite over Western Michigan.  GO CATS!

And Wisconsin travels to the desert to play ASU.  The Sun Devils are favored by 5.5.  I can see that happening.  GO DEVILS!

Maryland is a touchdown favorite over UConn.  GO TERPS!

Buttgers will mop up EMU, favored by 27.5 over our most recent opponent.  GO SCARLET KNIGHTS!

And in the GAME OF THE WEEK . . .

Johnny Football will host the Alabama Crimson Tide who are favored by 7.5.  Odds give a 30% chance that Johnny signs autographs during the game.  ROLL TIDE ROLL!

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