The Ineligi-Bowl. /handwank Ohio State and Penn State both are ineligible for the postseason this year, so this will be each team's biggest game of the season for all intensive purposes. Why? Because it's the top two teams in the Big Ten fighting it out for the only thing they can be rewarded with this year, the Leaders Division trophy. Let's get to the picks.
Devon: Ohio State is a very good football team, but they're a flawed one. And the ways in which they are flawed make them about as good a matchup as I can imagine for this Penn State team that's continuing to improve every week.
The Nittany Lions biggest weakness (besides special teams, but that is what it is) is pass defense, and they're going up against an offensive that doesn't throw the ball all that much. Penn State has traditionally done a very good job containing running quarterbacks--that's what having the best set of outside linebackers in the country will do for you--and if Braxton Miller does play, he likely won't be at his best.
The Lions' biggest strength? Throwing the ball, especially to the tight ends, and they're matching up against an Ohio State defense that's depleted at linebacker and weakest at safety. The Buckeyes are stout up front, which means Belton and Zwinak probably won't combine for 200 yards, but Matt McGloin will get his. As long as Penn State avoids the big mistakes and special teams miscues that have been popping up with uncomfortable regularity, I think they should be in a position of control for most of this game.
Penn State 31-20
bscaff: In my darker, unconscionable moments, I’m a little jealous of Ohio State. I say screw the Freeh Report and let the NCAA try to do its own "investigation" while we stonewall. I want local car dealers to loan the QB a ’13 Lexus while his ’98 Corolla is in the shop for the entire season. Hey, "them's the breaks, kid", to Sam Maldonado when he transfers to Maryland after two and half years in Columbus, with nearly 0 credits (though never ineligible!). Robert Smith wants a pre-med major? Not when you're that fast, son. Pre-med is only for slow, practice squad running backs. Why shouldn't Troy Smith, Maurice Clarrett, DeVier Posey, and others get a few hundy each for a (no-show) booster rally? And by all means, give them as many beads and trinkets as possible: gold pants, 26 pairs of cleats, and an endless supply of game worn thigh pads to barter with the commoners. Because, let’s face it: the difference between 9-3 and 11-1 is a noticeable hole. But multiplied over six seasons…that’s a 12-win bottomless chasm. A BCS appearance or three fits in there. Do you know how much more merchandise we can push with an MNC run? No, forget that – do you know how much better I feel when we’re Top 5? And the NCAA doesn’t actually care, of course. They just have to manage the occasional public uproar, and slam one unlucky bastard every 20 years or so to quell any calls for reform (thanks for volunteering, Rod Erickson!). And should the media latch on to a story and not let go, then so long as we can negotiate our own terms behind closed doors…well, even the downside is managed, isn’t it?
Ohio State plays that game better than everyone else in the Big Ten. You have to go about 700 miles south to find their equal (or better). But it doesn’t get them a win this week. Not this week. This is the week they pick up the "1" in that 1-loss season. This Saturday, they’re getting kicked in the buckeyes for 60 minutes, or until they double over and go fetal like Iowa just did. And when they do curl up and beg for mercy, I hope BO'B gives them at least one more good kick in the groin. These a**holes can not be kicked long enough or hard enough to please me. Stomp the nuts until they look like 2 White Castle patties, and then keep stomping until your foot breaks. Then use the other foot. The rotten sonzabitches. May the entire state be engulfed by a giant 30-foot tidal wave of lava.
Good luck Humble! Hope you and Mrs have a great time!
Penn State by 17
Nick: At some point a team will capitalize on the numerous opportunities presented to them. Is Ohio State the kind of team that plays down to the level of their competition? Has this Penn State team started to fall into the trap of reading their own headlines? I think a raucous crowd manages to tilt to scales in the home teams favor.
Penn State 33-24
Tim: I'm not sure what more can be said about this game that hasn't already been repeated as nauseum. All I'm going to say is, on the 15th Anniversary of the 1997 barn burner (by B1G standards) victory over OSU, expect a similar type of contest between two teams that clearly have the capability of moving the ball and putting up points. OSU's suspect defense will be the difference maker, as I see them giving up a few more points than PSU's will. There wont be an awesome pinball-like run by Aaron Harris, but expect some big plays out of the receiving corps.
Penn State 31-27
Jared: On the way out of the Penn State-Ohio game, my dad looked at me and said "Things could get ugly when we come back for Ohio State." I nodded in agreement, but still think it could get ugly- just in the opposite direction than what I thought on September 1.
I really like the way Penn State matches up with Ohio State- but this is still Ohio State. Penn State's OL has looked tremendous the last two games, but the Buckeyes have a very talented DL that can wreak havoc on Saturday. I know that Braxton Miller looked to be in really bad shape after he exited the Purdue game, but I've seen him take numerous vicious hits that he just shook off and came back to make big play after big play. He's one tough dude. As disciplined and aggressive as Penn State's defense has been, Miller is capable of taking it all the way any time a defender manages to be out of position. On top of this, Penn State has an unreliable kicking game and shaky return teams- which could be a huge advantage for the Buckeyes.
Now for the positives- I think McGloin can continue his incredible season, especially after tearing up a very talented defense last week. All five regular tight ends will have catches and cause problems for the Buckeyes LB. Mauti feeds off the crowd and has a game reminiscent of Poz in the original whiteout in 2005, while Hodges does an admirable job of containing Miller that the Buckeyes opponents will study the rest of the year. Finally, Deion Barnes has a bone-crunching sack that Penn State fans will still be watching on YouTube years from now. Oh yeah, and my ears will still be ringing on Sunday night thanks to the most electric atmosphere Beaver Stadium has seen in some time. There's a lot of reasons that I like Penn State to come out with a victory on Saturday, but Ohio State does a lot of things well to keep a lid my enthusiasm.
Penn State 28-24
Keith: This is the bowl game for both teams, as both are ineligible for post-season play. So, expect both teams to bring a tremendous amount of emotion to the game on Saturday. As for the play on the field, it will be interesting to see whether or not Braxton Miller is at 100% when the Buckeyes enter Beaver Stadium.
Penn State, on the other hand, boasts one of the best defenses in the country, led by future NFL first round pick LB Michael Mauti. What gives Penn State the edge, I think, is the very underrated (nationally, anyway) play of Senior QB Matt McGloin (1788 YPG, 14 TDs, 2 INTs). Under the direction of Coach O'Brien, McGloin has shown that he can be a very effective pocket passer with the ability to destroy defenses with surgical precision.
This one is a very tight contest, but one in which Penn State ultimately prevails.
Penn State 31-24
Mike: (Author's note: Mike just decided to keep it short and sweet.)
Penn State 28-19
Dan: I watched in horror for the upper deck of The 'Shoe in 2010 as Matt McGloin threw pick-sixes on back-to-back possessions after playing almost flawlessly in a first half that had Ohio State fans deflated in the restrooms during halftime.
That Matt McGloin is dead and gone. And I think that will be the difference.
I hate that I feel this confident in an Ohio State matchup. It doesn't feel right. Of course, I think it will be a tough, hard-fought, nail-biting game, but for the first time in years, I fully expect Penn State to win. McGloin and the tight ends will beat up on an almost non-existent Buckeye linebacking core and Michael Mauti, Gerald Hodges and company should hopefully hold Braxton Miller to only one or two big plays. If that happens, Penn State wins by a touchdown and is ranked come Sunday morning.
Penn State 28-24