Monday, April 21, 2014
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Statistically speaking: How Penn State stacks up in the Big Ten

Through three games, Penn State is last in the Big Ten standings with a .333 winning percentage -- and it's probably no surprise that the Nittany Lions are last in the conference in field goals, as Sam Ficken has made one of five. Here are a few other statistical standings. See where Penn State -- and Penn State players -- rank:

Statistically speaking: How Penn State stacks up in the Big Ten

Through three games, Penn State is last in the Big Ten standings with a .333 winning percentage -- and it's probably no surprise that the Nittany Lions are last in the conference in field goals, as Sam Ficken has made one of five.

Other statistics though? They may surprise you. For example: Matt McGloin leads the Big Ten in both touchdowns (eight) and touchdowns to interception ratio (8-1). That's the same McGloin who threw five interceptions in the Outback Bowl.

Here are a few other statistical standings. See where Penn State -- and Penn State players -- rank:

Red zone offense: Not a good area for Penn State, a the Nittany Lions are ranked 12th by scoring only six times on 10 chances. Five of those scores are touchdowns and all of the touchdowns have been passes. In fact, Penn State has yet to score a rushing touchdown all season. Could be a function of injuries -- No. 1 running back Bill Belton has been sidelined the past two games -- but definitely something Penn State needs to work on.

Rushing offense: Speaking of Penn State's run game, the Nittany Lions ranked 12th in the Big Ten by picking up 107.7 yards on the ground per game. They are the only team in the conference without a rushing touchdown yet. By contrast, Ohio State and Nebraska have each tallied nine.

Red zone defense: The Nittany Lions are a little better here, ranked 7th in the conference. They've allowed six scores on eight chances -- five were touchdowns. But Penn State has also recorded an interception in the red zone. 

Fourth down conversions: We know Bill O'Brien is a big gambler here, and so far, his gambling has paid off. The Nittany Lions are tied for second in the conference by converting 66 percent (6 of 9) on fourth down. The Big Ten leader in this category, Purdue, has only attempted four fourth down conversions while Ohio State, tied with Penn State at No. 2, has attempted three.

Penalties: Pretty good discipline from the young Nittany Lions: Penn State has committed only 11 penalties for 95 yards (31.7 yards per game) which ranks third in the Big Ten. 

Turnover margin: This has to be Penn State's best area so far. The Nittany Lions have forced eight turnovers and allowed only three -- best ratio in the conference. When asked yesterday about Penn State not turning the ball over in the past two games, O'Brien knocked on the table, then knocked on his head several times. Don't want to jinx it!

Opponents' third down conversion: This should be no surprise to anyone who tuned in to the Nittany Lions' first game against Ohio or second game against Virginia: Penn State is dead last in this category. Penn State has allowed 26 third down conversions (leader Indiana has only surrendered nine). The Nittany Lions just need to get better here.

Sacks against: Good job by Penn State's O-line, which has allowed McGloin to be sacked only three times for 17 yards. Second best in the Big Ten (Denard Robinson at Michigan has only been sacked two times, also for 17 yards). 

Punt and kickoff returning: Not good, not good at all. The Gerald Hodges experiment seemed to fail -- but so did other returners. The Nittany Lions are last in the conference in punt returning (two yards per attempt) and second to last in kickoff returning (18.6 yards per attempt). 

Tackles: Mike Mauti has been a monster. The senior ranks third in the Big Ten with 33 tackles. That's 11 per game -- pretty impressive.

Fumbles forced: Philly native Deion Barnes is going to be a star. O'Brien made some loose comparisons between the redshirt freshman and DeMarcus Ware last week. And while Barnes still has a ways to go, he's been quite good for the Nittany Lions so far. He's tied for first in the Big Ten by forcing two fumbles.

PAT kicking percentage: Poor Sam Ficken has received a ton of attention for his miscues, mostly in the Virginia game. But here's a category where he's actually not last in the Big Ten. He's second to last. The sophomore has made seven of nine attempts on point after touchdowns. Not great, but Sam McCartney of Purdue has made only nine of 12. 

Punting: Alex Butterworth hasn't been great. He's 11th in the conference, averaging 37.3 yards per punt. The leader is Will Hagerup of Michigan who is averaging almost 50 yards per punt.

Receiving: Welcome to the big show, Allen Robinson. The sophomore wide receiver has been a stud. He ranks first in the Big Ten in receptions per game (eight) and receiving yards per game (107.3). He's also tied for third in touchdowns with four.

-Emily Kaplan

About this blog
Joe Juliano has been a staff writer for The Inquirer for 20 years, covering college sports, golf and the Penn Relays.

This season is Joe's fourth season on the paper's Penn State beat. He previously covered the Nittany Lions for United Press International from 1976 to 1984.

Joe Juliano
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