Penn State will try to make its season with an upset over the #4 team in the land.
The Nittany Lions play in their biggest game of the year and hope to extinguish Ohio State's national title aspirations.
Penn State (4-2) at Ohio State (6-0)
Kickoff: 8 p.m., Ohio Stadium, Columbus, OH
The Line: PSU +14.5
TV: ESPN Brad Nessler (p-by-p), Todd Blackledge (analyst) Holly Rowe (sideline)
Weather: Both teams will play in its coldest game of the season so far. The temperature will be in the upper 30s by kickoff, with a low of 36 degrees. Cloudy with a very small chance of rain.
PENN STATE RECORD: 12-6, 2nd year
OVERALL RECORD: 12-6
VS. OHIO STATE: 0-1
OHIO STATE RECORD: 19-0, 2nd Year
OVERALL RECORD: 123-23, 12th Year
VS. PENN STATE: 2-0
...NOW THE FUN PART
OHIO STATE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
There's no good way to stop this very talented Buckeyes offense. Braxton Miller was an early-season Heisman frontrunner before missing the majority of non-conference play with a knee injury. He doesn't have the most accurate arm in the nation, but his arm is plenty deadly combined with his overwhelming athleticism. Perhaps no other quarterback in the country excels at avoiding pressure for long enough to find an open receiver downfield. He also demands the attention of a linebacker in a spy role to prevent long runs in the open field. He did quite a bit of damage to Penn State's defense last season, and could possibly have an even bigger day on Saturday against a weaker Penn State defense.
If things aren't clicking for Miller, the Buckeyes will rely on running back Carlos Hyde. Hyde is quite possibly the most underrated player in all of college football. He's a powerful back who only gets stronger as the game goes on, and has yet to have a negative run all season long (amazingly enough, no Buckeyes running back has been stopped for a loss in 2013). Keep an eye out for freshman running back Dontre Wilson, who may be the fastest Buckeye since Ted Ginn Jr. He's an explosive back who makes the most out of his limited carries, and is a threat to go the distance when given just a little bit of space.
Ohio State's offensive line isn't nearly as dominant as they were most of the Tressel era, but they get the job done when they need to. Penn State will have a chance to be disruptive, but John Butler will need to get creative, and every one of Penn State's defensive linemen will need to play to their fullest potential for this to happen.
OHIO STATE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
Speaking of not being as dominant as in the Tressel era, Ohio State's defense has struggled this season. While they allow teams to move the ball with ease at times, they have a knack for coming up with key stops whenever they are most needed. Cornerback Bradley Roby has not played nearly well as expected this season, and his match-up with Allen Robinson will be one of the most intriguing things to watch on Saturday. Roby will be playing with a chip on his shoulder after missing most of last week's contest against Iowa with a very questionable targeting penalty.
Junior linebacker Ryan Shazier is a worthy candidate to be names B10 Defensive Player of the Year following the season, and will be making plays all over the field. Also to keep an eye out for are former Penn State recruits/commits Armani Reeves, Noah Spence, Cameron Williams and Tommy Schutt. They were all expected to be big-time players at the college level- except we weren't expecting that to happen with them wearing scarlet and gray.
Senior kicker Drew Basil is perfect on the year, connecting on all seven field goal attempts (with a long of 45 yards), as well as all 35 PATs. He's also fun to watch on kickoff coverage, as he loves to race down the field and hit someone. Freshman punter Cameron Johnston is serviceable, but not a Ray Guy candidate just yet. He is capable of blasting one here and there. Ohio State is very sound across the board with its kick teams. Alex Butterworth will need to be on top of his game to prevent the Buckeyes from gaining a key advatage in the field possession battle.
OHIO STATE-40 PENN STATE-31
After spending most of the past year convinced Penn State had no chance in this game, I want to gamble and pick an upset so badly, but won't for three reasons:
1. I learned from history after having my hopes crushed last year. I was convinced that Ohio State was due for an upset and that Penn State had improved enough to be the better team. Clearly, I was wrong.
2. Braxton Miller scares the hell out of me, and could easily have a monster game if he plays to his ability.
3. I whiffed on my predictions the last two games, and hope a little superstition goes a long way on Sunday.
Penn State is capable of an upset, but numerous things will need to go their way. They will need to protect the football while forcing several turnovers. Hackenberg will need to play like a senior while Miller will need to have one of his occasional sloppy games. The offense will need to sustain drives throughout the game to keep the defense fresh. The pass rush will need to be a steady force and not disappear like in losses against Central Florida and Indiana. I believe Penn State can keep it close throughout the ballgame. They may be able to take a lead in the second half. But all of the things listed above are just to much to expect against a deeper Ohio State team on the road.
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