Penn State prediction: Lions can upset Ohio State only if ...

Frank Bodani
York Daily Record

Penn State rediscovered the most intriguing part of its team during last Saturday's White Out.

It finally used one of the best tight end rooms in the nation, doing so repeatedly and with game-changing implications. Throwing to oversized Theo Johnson, Brenton Strange and Tyler Warren not only produced big chunks of yards and touchdowns, it opened up the entire offense.

It made everything else better and easier.

It gave the Nittany Lions hope Saturday against the undefeated, untouched Ohio State Buckeyes, who certainly may own the most talented roster in the nation.

Because this Penn State defense, no matter how many stud cornerbacks and safeties it employs, no matter how much ground rising linebackers Curtis Jacobs and Abdul Carter cover, cannot win this game.

Penn State's Theo Johnson celebrates in the end zone after scoring a touchdown on a 18-yard reception against Minnesota at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in State College.

The defense must be able to hang in and give its team a shot. But it ultimately will not decide the outcome in Beaver Stadium.

Rather, Sean Clifford and Penn State's offense must be diverse, precise and productive from the beginning. It must be able to match Ohio State's scoring prowess enough times to stay close through the first three quarters.

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It must be able to uses its advantages to its fullest −starting with those tight ends. Johnson, the most gifted in size and speed, for example, only got untracked last week with five catches for 75 yards. Minnesota, which entered the night with one of the better statistical defenses in the country, had no answer for him.

Strange, by the way, already showed All-America potential in the first part of the season.

Warren caught a long touchdown against the Golden Gophers.

See where this is going?

Because Clifford won't have enough time to throw, and his freshmen tailbacks won't have enough room to run and his wideouts won't have enough freedom to find space if Penn State cannot use the best part about this unit.

Make the Buckeyes truly account for multiple tight ends, and they won't be able to load up elsewhere.

Do that, and everyone else on the Penn State offense will have a smoother time doing their thing.

Do that − and Penn State should have a shot at hanging close, which only then opens up bigger possibilities.

Penn State tight end Tyler Warren scores a touchdown on a 38-yard reception in the second quarter against Minnesota at Beaver Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 22, 2022, in State College.

That would give the Lions a chance to pull a couple of wildcards that will matter, to put them over the top. A big return. A well-timed blocked kick. Or a turnover or two that actually lead to something.

That's what it may take to win this game as a two-touchdown underdog, against what may be the most powerful team around.

But hitting them, truly enough, with your best punches is the only way to even build that chance.

Bodani's pick: Ohio State 31, Penn State 20

Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.