Penn State Football’s Midseason Report By The Numbers

Penn State enters the meat of its Big Ten schedule Saturday when it travels to Columbus to challenge the mighty, top-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions, a solid 5-1 through six games, are exactly halfway through their regular season march.

After losing its opening game at Temple (the lone road game for the Lions so far), Penn State ticked off five straight victories at home. It’s the best home start for the Lions since 2008, though the play (and playcalling) did not always support that fact.

With the start — which now sees Penn State receiving votes in the AP Top 25 for the first time since the preseason — Penn State has posted some thrilling, depressing, and amusing stats. Let’s take a closer look.

Overall

  • It’s not new news that Penn State’s offense has struggled this season. But just how bad is it? It’s 25.2 points per game is good for 91st in the nation. A promising rushing attack headlined by Akeel Lynch and Saquon Barkley has struggled in consecutive weeks due to injuries, and the Lions’ 157.3 ground yards per game are only 86th in the nation. Christian Hackenberg’s sophomore slump as turned into a junior struggle: Penn State’s 187 passing yards per game are 99th in the country.
  • It’s also no surprise that the Lions’ defense has been stellar as always. Its 14.3 points allowed per game is 11th in the country.
  • 0-0: Penn State’s record, according to James Franklin. Penn State’s second year coach doesn’t like to speak about past or future games, only the present. So as the Lions build up to the Buckeyes, expect to hear Franklin say that his squad is 0-0 this week.
  • 38: The number of total games individual Penn Staters have lost due to injuries this year. Among the noteworthy are Nyeem Wartman White (5.5 games), Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch (2.5 each), and Brandon Bell (2).
  • The five home games in a row was the longest homestand since 1922, and the first since it moved to Beaver Stadium. It was the third five-game home slate in Penn State history. In all three, the Nittany Lions went undefeated.

Offense

  • As StateCollege.com’s Mike Poorman noted, when Christian Hackenberg threw for 296 yards against San Diego State, it was the first time he threw for at least 200 yards in regulation during the regular season in exactly a year. Hack’s thrown for at least 200 yards twice this season. Through six weeks last year, he had only not thrown for at least 200 in two games.
  • Of the eight non-quarterbacks who have carried the ball for the Nittany Lions this year, six have been either true or redshirt freshmen.
  • According to StateCollege.com’s Ben Jones, second-half scoring may doom the Lions. Only eight percent (13 points) of its total scoring has come in the third quarter (it didn’t score at all in an ugly third quarter against Indiana). Penn State only records 35 percent of its points in the second half. For reference, Ohio State scores 60 percent in the final 30 minutes, and its scoring builds each quarter.
  • Before the Indiana game (in which Christian Hackenberg rushed for two touchdowns and found veteran DaeSean Hamilton for another), true freshmen accounted for almost 40 percent of Penn State’s offensive touchdowns.

Defense

  • Carl Nassib, a walk-on turned star defensive end, now leads the nation in total sacks. His ten sacks are a full sack ahead of a fellow Big Ten foe, Wisconsin’s Joe Schobert. Nassib’s ten sacks are already the most for a Nittany Lion since Aaron Maybin had 12 in 2008.
  • It’s not just Nassib that’s been enjoying the sack party. Penn State’s defense has accounted for 25 sacks, tied with Oklahoma State for the most in the nation. And its 4.17 sacks a game are just .03 behind Pitt for the most per game in the nation.
  • Against Army, Penn State tallied three sacks. The Black Knights recorded one completion.

Against Ohio State

  • History doesn’t support a Penn State victory on Saturday in The Horseshoe. It’s the first time Penn State has faced the No. 1 team in the nation since it was crushed at Alabama in 2010.
  • The Nittany Lions have played the Buckeyes three times recently when they’ve been the top-ranked team (1998, 2006, and 2007). Penn State has lost all three times.
  • Penn State is 4-11 against No. 1 teams. Two of those wins came in National Championships, and two came in the regular season. They all came between 1981 and 1990.

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Ben Berkman

State College, PA

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