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The National: Five Penn State Stats Compared To The Rest Of The Nation

by on October 22, 2018 2:00 PM

Penn State's season hasn't been without its drama, but at 5-2 the Nittany Lions are almost certainly going bowling, and with plenty of talent, potential and big games left to go, in theory at least, anything is possible.

But trends are trends, they speak to how a season is going better than opinions and the fact of the matter is Penn State is doing very well in some key areas and not well at all in others.

The result is what you're seeing now, a team that has its moments of both good and bad. Moments that look elite and moments that look awful. Penn State's ability to address the bad and maintain the good will be as important as any in the weeks to come.

Total defense: 392 yards per game is 71st in the nation. Ranked 53rd in the nation last week.

Given everything that has happened this season and how the games have played out, Penn State's total defense dropping isn't much of a shock. Nearly 400 yards of offense given up per game seems about par for the course given all of the late game comebacks but Penn State's opponents. Although for comparison Ohio State is now ranked 70th int he nation, just one spot better than Penn State and several pegs higher up the college football playoff ladder.

Perhaps more importantly though, it's the points you give up, not the yards and Penn State is 36th in scoring defense this season. It's not quite as good as the 17th best mark last year, but if Penn State is doing a decent job not allowing yards to turn into points, that counts for something.

Third down conversion:  36.84% is 93rd in the nation. 83rd in the nation last week.

Third down conversion rate is one of those things that can make or break you. Of course avoiding third down all together can be a huge help, but in reality a game plan centered around only using first and second down isn't a realistic one. In turn, Penn State has struggled all season moving the chains, but the past three games in particular on third down. A lot of this has to do with third-and-long, a problem that comes well before third down itself, but results are results. 

This season Penn State has converted on 35 of 95 attempts overall and 20 of 57 time in Big Ten play.

Ultimately there are a lot of factors as to why the Nittany Lions have struggled this year at times, but as third down goes, so does Penn State.

Red zone offense: 8th nationally at 96.97%. Ranked 9th nationally last week.

For all of the up and down trends around Penn State this year the offense continues to quietly be one of the best in the nation inside the 20. So far this year the Nittany Lions have picked up 32 scores on 33 trips in red zone with 27 of them coming in the form of touchdowns. A 81.82% touchdown rate is 7th best in the nation and only four teams have scored more touchdowns. Alabama leads the way with 33.

Of note, over the past 10 years no team that has led the nation in red zone success has done it with a rate lower than the North Texas rate of 94.29% in 2014.

There are plenty of reasons to worry about Penn State's offense, but so far, scoring in the red zone isn't one of them.

Sacks: 25 sacks is 6th nationally. Ranked 22nd last week.

Shaka Toney's four sack outing against Indiana certainly helped the cause but Penn State has been steadily getting to the quarterback all year long. In fact 3.57 sacks per game is third best in the nation. Penn State isn't alone in the productivity behind the line of scrimmage though as Michigan sits just one sack behind at 24, two weeks from meeting the Nittany Lions in Ann Arbor.

Penn State has had at least 40 sacks each of the past three seasons which has seen the Nittany Lions ranked anywhere from first in 2015 to 19th in 2016. The 2017 figure of 42 sacks, seventh best in the nation, seems like a reasonable goal to aim for.

Total individual offense: 2015 yards of offense is 25th int he nation. Was ranked 33rd in the nation last week.

Trace McSorley hasn't slowed down in the do-it-all department as he continues to climb up the total offense rankings nationally. His lower passing figures have kept him from really rocketing up the rankings, but he's still one of the most efficient and versatile players in the country.

He will probably need to kick it into high gear to finish in the Top 15 for a third straight season, but I wouldn't put anything past McSorley as he approaches the final few games of his collegiate career.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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