Much has been said about Bill O’Brien’s new offense. Matt McGloin’s passing is crisper, the playbook is more diverse, the tight ends are much, much more involved.
But how much more productive is this year’s offense compared to last year’s?
Statistics don’t tell the whole story, but they can help paint the picture. Here’s a look at how the Nittany Lions were performing after four games in 2011 and how they’re preforming right now.
Note that Penn State was 3-1 heading into Big Ten play last season (the loss was to then-No. 3 Alabama). This year, Penn State is 2-2.
Total offense: At this point, the Nittany Lions were still using a two-quarterback system, and still struggling to have the pass game looking smooth. Despite a nice cupcake win against Eastern Michigan, Penn State was 11th in the conference by racking up only 346.5 yards per game. This year, despite one more loss, the Nittany Lions seem to be moving the ball better. They rank 9th in the Big Ten with 378.5 yards per game.
Pass offense: Perhaps the biggest difference between 2011 and 2012 can be found here. McGloin is no longer crippled by the two-quarterback system, and with confidence has been exceeding expectations for the Nittany Lions so far. Penn State ranks second in the Big Ten right now in pass offense with 254.5 yards per game. Last season, the Nittany Lions were sixth in the conference with 209.5 yards per game.
Rushing offense: Things have been rough for Penn State’s run game in 2012, as the group -- led by No. 1 running back Bill Belton -- has been hampered by injuries. The Nittany Lions rank last in the Big Ten with 124 yards per game. Things were much better when Silas Redd was around, right? Not quite. After four games in 2012, Penn State also ranked last in the conference. The Nittany Lions were averaging a slightly better 137 yards per game.
Total defense: Ted Roof’s unit is still looking for consistency, especially in the second half. The Nittany Lions rank ninth in the conference, surrendering 355.5 yards per game. At this point last season -- and for the entire season -- Penn State’s strong point was its defense. The Nittany Lions were third in the Big Ten, allowing only 249 yards per game.
Touchdowns: Another testament to McGloin’s improvement. At this point last year, the quarterback threw for three touchdowns -- all in the Eastern Michigan game. McGloin already has nine touchdown passes this season.
Opponents’ third down conversions: A weak spot for this year’s team. Penn State ranks last in the BigTen, surrendering a third down conversion 46 percent of the time. Last year, the Nittany Lions were much stronger on third down defense, ranking fifth in the Big Ten by allowing 34.4 percent.