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Peach Bowl 2023 Preview: First glance at Penn St.

The defense looks pretty darn good

NCAA Football: Penn State at Michigan State David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State will kickoff against Ole Miss in the Peach Bowl in about three and a half weeks, so it’s about time to start dissecting this matchup Rebel fans will obsess over this entire month.

One common narrative I can already see is that the Nittany Lions (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) are this defensive juggarnaut who can squelch any offense that takes the field. That could very well be true or it could be a combination of a somewhat soft schedule and the way Big Ten football is played.

Two of its non-conference games were Delaware and Massachusetts with a combined score of 126-7, which makes up 16.7 percent of all its outcomes for the year. Those two games alone skew its statistics a good bit, but throw in a shutout of a headless corpse of a team Michigan State (42-0) to cap the season and suddenly it makes sense why the defense gives up on average 11.4 points per game.

Take out those three really non-competitive ball games and the defense gives up around 14.5 points per game. It’s still an impressive number, and there’s a shutout of Iowa in there as well who was shutout by Michigan and not an offensive powerhouse.

The really impressive defensive efforts both came in losses giving up 20 to No. 7 Ohio State and 24 to No. 1 Michigan. PSU held Michigan to less than 300 total yards and only 60 yards passing, but again this is the Big Ten and the Wolverines only threw eight passes THE ENTIRE GAME.

In both of these losses, Michigan and Ohio State had a time of possession of more than 33 minutes and logged more than 40 rushing attempts. The Buckeyes passed the ball quite a bit more, however, but were able to hold PSU to 1 of 16 on third down. Yikes.

PSU is led under center by Drew Allar whose stats jump off the page initially, but again let’s look at them a little closer with context. Allar has passed for 2,336 yards, 23 touchdowns and only one interception this season with a 61 percent completion rate - that’s a helluva year in the Big Ten.

But how does it break down in the two biggest games of the year vs. the rest of his conference?

Allar vs. OSU/UM

  • 18/42 passing, 191 yards, 1 TD, 30 QBR vs. Ohio St.
  • 10/22 passing, 70 yards, 1 TD, 56.7 QBR vs. Michigan

Allar vs. Rest of Big Ten

  • 16/33 passing, 208 yards, 58.3 QBR vs. Illinois
  • 25/37 passing, 166 yards, 4 TDs, 90.5 QBR vs. Iowa
  • 18/33 passing, 189 yards, 1 TD, 50.4 QBR vs. Northwestern
  • 20/31 passing, 210 yards, 3 TD, 1 Int, 55 QBR vs. Indiana
  • 25/34 passing, 240 yards, 4 TD, 97.6 QBR vs. Maryland
  • 6/13 passing, 79 yards, 80.5 QBR vs. Rutgers
  • 17/26 passing, 292 yards, 2 TD, 79.8 QBR vs. Michigan St.

Now I think any rational Ole Miss fan will agree the Rebels defense is not as talented or deep as Michigan or Ohio State, so Allar is likely to land somewhere in the second group in the Peach Bowl.

So what are some of the general points Rebels fans can take away from our first glance at Penn State?

For me, it’s unlikely Ole Miss is going to crack 30 points in this game, because no one has done it. Secondly, Drew Allar is a game manager who will not lose this game for PSU, but if Ole Miss can limit its turnovers to zero, this will be one hell of a ballgame. A defensive score by the Nittany Lions would be a death knell as its offense is somewhere shy of being full blown Iowa but not the highest echelon of its conference either.