Author Archives: Cory Lestochi

How Can Penn State Catch Ohio State?

Photo by Kami Brand

In the Big Ten it’s the Ohio State Buckeyes and then everyone else. That is the undeniable truth.

In the past four seasons, Ohio State is 49-6 and boasts a 33-3 conference record (16′ loss at Penn State, 17′ loss at Iowa, and 18′ loss at Purdue). To put it plainly, it has been utter dominance.

So how do the Nittany Lions rise to the same level? Well, it’s important to note that Penn State has played the Buckeyes as well as anyone in the past four years: both the 2017 and 2018 games were heartbreakers with a single point separating the Lions from the Buckeyes. Last year’s game wasn’t as close, but it was also probably Ohio State’s most talented team since 2014 and it was in Ohio Stadium.

As close as the Nittany Lions were to knocking off the Buckeyes, there are also no moral victories in College Football. The pair of losses in 2017 and 2018 were a figurative Ohio State stiff arm–keeping Penn State out of arm’s reach.

Let’s take a closer look:


Recruiting is the fuel to any college football program. Obviously every program has to be able to develop their players to be successful, something Michigan has struggled with. But the top-tier teams are able to consistently develop their four and five star recruits. So it doesn’t matter how well the Iowas and Wisconsins improve their three star players, they will never consistently keep up with the schools that are recruiting and developing their blue-chip recruits.

That is simply why Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten.

 

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 3.53.54 PM

Screen Shot 2020-03-23 at 3.20.08 PM

Look at the above data. Ohio State has dominated the Big Ten when it comes to recruiting. In 2019, the Nittany Lions did edge out the Buckeyes. The class has players who will look to make a major impact in 2020: Noah Cain, Brandon Smith, Adisa Isaac, John Dunmore, and Devyn Ford. But for the most part Ohio State has had their way when it comes to recruiting. Typical recruiting battles between the Buckeyes and Wolverines in Michigan and Ohio have been won by Ohio State. Furthermore the Buckeyes have stolen big time players from Pennsylvania like five star receiver Julian Fleming. To top it off, the Buckeyes have been recruiting on a national level rivaling the likes of Georgia and Alabama.

It’s no surprise that the strong 2018 and 2019 Penn State recruiting classes came after the Nittany Lions returned to greatness in 2016. However, the 2016 Big Ten Championship is long gone; high school recruits were only 11-14 years old when James Franklin raised that trophy. The Nittany Lions need to continue to defend why their product is better than Ohio State’s.

Because right now it isn’t.

On top of the recruiting imbalance, Ohio State continues to attract top-level transfers to their program. The most gut-wrenching one? Justin Fields transferring from Georgia to Columbus, who was at one time committed to Penn State. Just yesterday, Oklahoma running back and graduate transfer, Trey Sermon, announced he too will be transferring to Ohio State.

Penn State’s biggest addition via the transfer portal? A specialist. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions have lost big time players such as Juwan Johnson, Justin Shorter, and Ricky Slade. Perhaps Penn State fans won’t miss any of them, but the program still needs to find a way to entice a couple playmakers where their depth is shallow.


It’s hard to compete against Ohio State with the number of blue chip players on their roster. But it’s important to note that Penn State doesn’t need to beat the Buckeyes every time they play them to narrow the gap. But when they have the opportunities to win, they must capitalize. The single-point losses in 2017 and 2018 halted the momentum of the entire program not because they lost to Ohio State, but how and when they lost. Losing by one-point, twice, leaves a stinging resonance within the entire program. Even a split in those games would have helped close the distance between the programs. Instead, losing both those games, then losing the following week to Michigan State lagged the program’s growth and let Ohio State separate.

The loss in 2019 didn’t change the opinions of many, Penn State wasn’t supposed to beat one of the best teams in the country on their home-field. But now let’s fast forward to the 2020 season.

Penn State is returning a ton of experience, a stout defense, and a couple game-changers on both sides of the football. Let’s focus in on the last point because I believe that is what makes the difference between the elite and the great programs. Having team speed and disruptive linemen help you dominate the lesser opponents, but the game changing playmakers are the ones that swing the game in your favor against evenly matched teams. Think Saquon Barkley, Chris Godwin, KJ Hamler.

Penn State will still be looking for a few more game changers in their receiving corps, but they have promising prospects eager to prove themselves. All things considered, given how much Ohio State has to replace, this appears to be a season where Penn State can move one step closer to Ohio State.

And beating Ohio State every couple years along with capitalizing on other primetime matchups is the only way to narrow the gap and truly compete with the Buckeyes.

And if they don’t beat them in 2020 then they will just move further away.

Evaluating Penn State Players at the NFL Combine

This weekend five former Penn State Nittany Lions took part in the 2020 NFL Draft Combine to showcase their skills in front of NFL scouts, coaches, and general managers. Here is our evaluation for each of them.

KJ Hamler WR

Grade: B

The knock on KJ Hamler heading into Indy was always going to be his size. He didn’t necessarily help himself with his weigh-in under 180 pounds. That being said, the flashy receiver benched 15 reps at 225, which was impressive for any receiver. Hamler didn’t run his 40 this weekend though because of a tweaked hamstring. He claims he will run a  sub-4.3. It’s safe to say his stock will highly depend on that time, more than it would for other receivers.

Yetur-Gross Matos DE

Grade: B-

Yetur-Gross Matos was never going to wow anyone away with his bench press showing. The defensive end’s length was a talking point though. Gross-Matos was measured with 82 2/8″ wingspan and almost 35″ arms. That length is something that cannot be coached or taught. Like Hamler, Gross-Matos didn’t run his 40.

Robert Windsor DL

Grade: A

Robert Windsor went into Indianapolis with very little to lose and it showed. Windsor put together an impressive combine and boosted his stock. He ran a sub 5.0 forty, which would bode well for any interior defensive linemen. Furthermore, his hustle and pass rush ability appears on his tape as well as his measurables. I am not sure where he is going to go but I can see him lasting in the NFL for a long time.

Cam Brown LB

Grade: C

This was an important weekend for Cam Brown and he didn’t put his best foot forward. The linebacker only managed 16 reps on the benchpress, which was only one better than his former teammate, KJ Hamler. That disappointing result is partially due to his length, but it still doesn’t look good for an undersized linebacker. Furthermore, his 40 time, 4.72 was not as fast as he would’ve liked it. He will look to improve his stock at Penn State’s pro day, where he will look to get that 40 time possibly under 4.70 at the very least.

John Reid

Grade: A

John Reid closed out the NFL Combine for the Nittany Lions with a strong performance. The former Nittany Lion defensive back was once a possible candidate to leave early for the NFL, but was held back with a couple injuries. One important aspect of the NFL Combine is the medical evaluations during the week, which plays a pivotal role for players like Reid. If he passed those tests without any red flags then this week was already a successful one for him. Furthermore, his hips were as fluid as any during the on-the-field drills. He capped off his performance with a sub-4.50 40, which was one of the question marks heading into the combine. Oh and it doesn’t hurt when Hall of Famer, Deion Sanders says you look smooth:

Week 14 Predictions: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Happy Thanksgiving from the For the Glory team! Should be a pretty straight forward weekend for the Nittany Lions. Don’t be surprised if Sean Clifford is held out and Will Levis gets the start. Rutgers is bad.

Brandon Musso (10-1) & (6-5) vs. The Spread

I talked about Penn State’s inability to recover from an emotional loss ad nauseam after their Minnesota loss. Well now we sit here after another Penn State loss. Fortunately, there isn’t a top ranked opponent waiting for them this week.

The Nittany Lions will host Rutgers at Beaver Stadium to close out the regular season. 

There’s not much to say about this matchup, Penn State may be coming off a tough loss but Rutgers is going to need more than that if they want to beat Penn State. The talent disparity is large which gives me reason to believe that Penn State will still win big.

Penn State: 45 Rutgers: 10

Kraigen Rasalla (10-1) & (4-7) vs. The Spread

The final regular season game is here and Penn State is on the verge of winning 10 games for the third time in four years. Yet again, Rutgers is one of the worst teams in college football, sitting at 2-9 entering the matchup.

Although James Franklin said Sean Clifford is a game-time decision, Will Levis proved last Saturday at Ohio State that he is more than capable of handling the reigns. I don’t expect the Penn State offense to slow down at all on Saturday.

I think Penn State will win in a blowout and will provide some of their younger players to play more snaps than we have seen all season. I’m excited to see freshmen we have not seen much this year, as well as seniors who are playing in their final game at Beaver Stadium.

Penn State picks up another 10 win season.

Penn State: 55 Rutgers: 10

Cory Lestochi (8-3) & (5-6) vs. The Spread

Rutgers is very bad. I expect a lot of freshman to play in this one. The question is whether or not they cover the spread. I say they do and have a big time day on the ground.

Penn State: 49  Rutgers: 3

Week 13 Predictions: Ohio State Buckeyes

It is finally here: judgement day for the Nittany Lions.

With the Big Ten East on the line, the Penn State Nittany Lions will be welcomed in to Ohio Stadium to face one of the most complete teams in the nation. The Buckeyes are superior in talent, statistics, and what some consider the “eye test”. Ohio State is heavily favored by 18.5 points. Still, Penn State has reason to be hopeful as a young pride finds themselves 9-1 for the first time in a long time. Let’s jump into the predictions.

Week 9-4.png

Brandon Musso (9-1) & (5-5) vs. The Spread

After a week a prep for Indiana, Penn State again struggled with the same secondary issues that ailed them in their loss to Minnesota. Despite a relatively strong start to the season, the Nittany Lion secondary has now had two consecutive weeks of serious struggles. They now face the best offense they will see all season long, Ohio State. 

The secondary is very clearly the key to the game. If Penn State wants to come out on top this weekend in Columbus, they need to limit the high powered Buckeye offense. The game will be over very quickly if the secondary continues to have the same breakdowns we have seen over the last two weeks. 

I think this game will be a lot closer than people expect but I don’t believe Penn State will come out on top. The secondary will continue to struggle and the Buckeyes will be booking their trip to Indy for another opportunity at a B1G Championship. 

Penn State: 31 Ohio State: 38

Kraigen Rasalla (9-1) & (3-7) vs. The Spread

In the biggest game of the year, the Penn State defense will have to find the magic that made them one of the best units in the nation through their first 8 games. It will not be easy as they go against the dynamic Ohio State offense led by QB Justin Fields. On the season, Fields has a touchdown to interception ratio of 31 to 1. That is pretty, pretty good.

In order to bounce back defensively, the Lions will need to generate more of a pass rush than they have in their last two games. They have 3 sacks in those two games, which is far from the expectations of Sean Spencer’s Wild Dogs.

One thing that should help slow down the Buckeyes’ offense is that rain is in the forecast. In rainy conditions against Wisconsin, the Buckeyes played sloppy and were shut out in the first quarter. However, they did rally to win 38-7. Meanwhile, Sean Clifford proved he can throw in rainy conditions, as he threw 4 touchdown passes in the rain against Michigan State.

Unfortunately, I do not think Penn State comes out of Columbus with a victory, although I do believe they cover the pretty ridiculous spread of 18 or 19 points, depending where you look.

Penn State: 17 Ohio State: 24

Cory Lestochi (8-2) & (4-6) vs. The Spread

I have dove deep into Justin Fields this week to understand the quarterback better. I think he is really good when his team is really good, but this week he was asked the last time he had to lead his team down the field to win a game. His answer? Junior year of high school.

The Buckeyes haven’t had to play anyone close and that’s a credit to how dominant they have been all season. This team is better than the Nittany Lions. I don’t think they are 18 points better so if you wanna win some money, you should jump all over that spread.

And look, on my podcast I took Ohio State to win a close-one, but thinking it over more and more today, just like the Michigan State pick (which I was entirely right on), I am going to change it up today…

 

Thanks Herb…Great moments are born from great opportunity. Penn State plays this Ohio State team 10 times, they may only win one, but maybe that’s Saturday.

Penn State: 34  Ohio State: 31

« Older Entries