There’s really not a lot to hang your hope on this week. Ohio State’s offense does everything well that Penn State’s defense struggles with. Unless the offense can execute 60 minutes of flawless football, the Nittany Lions don’t have the horses to keep pace in a track meet. The White Out can be imposing, particularly if Penn State can keep it close, but the Buckeyes just played under the lights in Madison last week, so that advantage is somewhat diluted. The glimmer of hope may rest in that the team had a bye week to get healthy and maybe installed some twists Ohio State hasn’t seen.
Ohio State 38, Penn State 30
PSU comes out hard, riding the crowd's energy to a quick score before going into the half down by just 3. The second half is the Buckeye show, and PSU falls behind. A pick by McSorley ices the game.
Ohio State 42, Penn State 24
There's a reason the Buckeyes are nearly three-touchdown favorites heading into Saturday's affair. They're probably the second most talented team in the country behind Alabama, and are coached by one of the 10 greatest head coaches college football has ever seen. So what can the Nittany Lions do to have a shot? First and foremost, Trace McSorley is going to have to keep the ball on the zone read. Obviously, Ohio State is going to be keyed in on Saquon Barkley, so McSorley has to make the defense pay -- whether that be running the ball or dumping it to Mike Gesicki or DaeSean Hamilton in the flat. Positive plays, especially on first down, will be critical for the offense. As talented as Ohio State is, this is a young defense so take what is given and eventually the big plays should open up.
Defensively, priority number one is to keep Barrett in the pocket. Throw him a lot of different looks, but more than anything, the defensive line has to stay discipline. Let Barrett out of the pocket, and that will spell trouble for the Nittany Lions.
I'm hopeful that Penn State can ride the home field advantage in the first half, but at the end of the day (night?), Ohio State is just simply the better team.
Ohio State 43, Penn State 20
I think this game is closer than the line right now (19.5-20) for the firs three quarters. Ohio State's offense is the most explosive that Penn State has faced this year, and I think Curtis Samuel could cause some issues at the second level for the Nittany Lions. J.T. Barrett has been a thorn in Penn State's side since he first took the field in 2014, and he will obviously be key to the Buckeyes' success.
So how can Penn State win? Keep the ball in the hands of McSorley and Barkley. Trace showed against Minnesota and Maryland that he is as dangerous in the open field as he is if he is given time to throw. If McSorley runs the offense the way he did against Minnesota, Urban may be in trouble.
Defensively, the chance of seeing Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell on the field gives me almost as much joy as February 3rd, 2008 brought me (It's not really that close). Having them available for the game, no matter how long they play, should give both the team and the fans an emotional lift.
Having said that, I think Ohio State overcomes the Whiteout, and pulls away in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State 38, Penn State 17
Penn State covers, which is cool. I expect the team to come out like a house on fire and maybe even take an early lead, but as is typical in college sports the team with the most talent will prevail. JT Barrett's ball handling will do plenty to confuse Penn State linebackers and Penn State pass rushers will continue to struggle with keeping contain as they have previously this season against mobile quarterbacks. The offense will move the ball but I'm not confident they'll avoid turnovers, which could be killed. Penn State fights and scratches and claws to a competitive contest, but talent wins football games...
Ohio State 39, Penn State 23
It's time Penn State won a big game. Using the law of averages, it's been far too long since a superior team came into Beaver Stadium and melted under the pressure of the Beaver Stadium Crowd. Ohio State is a very good football team, but to be honest I think they're at least a tier below Michigan. Wisconsin was a holding call away from beating Ohio State and outplayed them the entire game, and we wouldn't be deathly afraid of Wisconsin like some people are of Ohio State. The contrast of last week, where Ohio State had to have a physical week of practice to prepare for a very physical football game while Penn State went home and visited their families is just enough of an advantage where if things go right for PSU, they can beat Ohio State Saturday. Good things come to those who wait, and Penn State fans have waited long enough for a win like this.
Penn State 28 Ohio State 20
The game will depend a lot on how Penn State's hopefully healthier linebackers help against Ohio State's rushing attack. J.T. Barrett has been forced to keep the ball a lot during Ohio State's last two games, so the Lions must punish him while defending the read option. Even if Penn State does rough up the Buckeye quarterback, though, it's unlikely that Ohio State's run game will be slowed down the way Maryland's was two weeks ago. There's a decent chance that the Buckeyes physically dominate Penn State's front seven the way Michigan did. On the other side of the ball, Saquon Barkley is going to need to make some big plays, because he's not going to rip off consistent gains like he did against the Terps. The Buckeyes are too good on defense, so Trace McSorley will need to make a lot of plays in the run game as well as the passing game for the Lions to score enough to keep pace with their opponents. I'm going to prepare for the worst and hope for the best.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 17
This is a weird game, in the sense that nobody with the slightest sense of reality should expect it to be competitive, let alone a win for Penn State. Going back to reality for a second, only 26 of Ohio State's 85 scholarship players are rated at 3 stars or lower. That's about 30% of their roster. In other words, 70% of the Buckeyes' players are 4-star talent or better. Compare that to Penn State, who sits at the opposite end of that spectrum, with 26 players rated 4-star or higher out of 85 scholarship players. Furthermore, only one of Ohio State's starters is a first-year player (four if you count redshirt freshmen). On the other hand, Penn State has four first-year players on the field right now, five when you include redshirt freshman Kevin Givens.
Looking at the stats above, no only is Ohio State severely more talented than Penn State, but their experience is about on par with the Nittany Lions'. There really shouldn't be a reason why this Penn State team would be within the 21-point line Vegas has set for them. However, you're hearing a lot about the atmosphere, the whiteout, the night game, the bye week, and all the other little things that will lead the optimistic of us to believe the Lions have a chance. Ohio State is clearly the better team, but I'm going with optimism today.
Penn State 56, Ohio State 17
It will not be a close game. It will not be a win for PSU. Refs will make calls in OSU's favor and won't call holding at all. Joey Julius will get a nice tackle or two. Barkley will hold steady and get at least one TD for us and some decent all-purpose yards. Kicking will get us the other points. We won't stop Barrett but we'll slow him down enough so that it's not a massive bloodbath.
Ohio State 35, Penn State 13
Ohio State may be young, but they are loaded with 4 and 5-star talent and it's showing on the field for them, thus far. Penn State meanwhile, is nowhere near as loaded. On paper, this is a game the Buckeyes should win without too much trouble, especially with an experienced, battle-tested QB such as J.T. Barrett (just trying to picture PSU's D attempting to contain him requires me to perform some serious mental gymnastics). However, PSU has had two weeks to prepare for an OSU team that is fresh off a hard-fought, physically draining, overtime win at Wisconsin and they will, of course, have the White Out atmosphere on their side. I can imagine that Joe Moorhead has thrown in a few extra wrinkles into the offense that he's just itching to try on the Buckeye D, while Brent Pry has to be giddier than a teenage slumber party to have Jason Cabinda and Brandon Bell available at his disposal once again. Look for the Nittany Lions to come out aggressive and try to draw first blood in order to keep the crowd into it. I think they will be successful with that to an extent, but OSU's talent is ultimately going to be too much as they wear down the PSU defense and force Trace McSorley into making a few critical mistakes.
Ohio State 45, Penn State 31
Urban Meyer's now coached 60 games at OSU. They've gained fewer than 150 yards rushing just 3 times. Super genius Nick Saban and his harem of 5-stars? Gave up 281. Big Game Bob Stoops, a one-time defensive wizard? 291. Booger-eating Jim Harbaugh, in "The Game"? 369. Meyer runs the football on everyone.
This includes us, by the way. In 4 games against, Urbz averaged 294 yards on 53 attempts. That's a KiJana Carter like 5.5 ypc. The last time Penn State held Ohio State under 200 yards? Late October 2008. Today's high school senior was 10 years old at the time. So it's been a while. Aaaannnndd it's gonna be a while, too.
Penn State Few, Ohio State Many
PREDICTION: Two years ago, I thought that Penn State would lose by about 28 points. I had a Buckeye friend who told me, during our day-long tailgate, that the game would be incredibly close. I should have believed him at the time.
This year I'm in the same boat. Penn State comes in having gelled on both offense and defense in the second half against Minnesota and in their most complete game this year against Maryland, but it won't be enough. Ohio State is very young, but very, very talented and well-coached. They're #2 for a reason. OHIO STATE 41, PENN STATE 24.
PLAYER ON THE SPOT: Trace McSorely. Most of what went into the rout of Maryland (and despite the win by "only" 24 points, the Nittany Lions left points on the board so it could have been worse) was McSorely's play--he's making better decisions in Joe Moorhead's RPO offense, and he's become a legitimate running threat. If Penn State has any shot of making it close, McSorely's got to bring his A game.
DON’T BE SURPRISED IF… Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda don't start, but still see significant time. Since the starters have been out, the linebacker position group, the thinnest of all groups preseason, has been tested--and youngsters Manny Bowen, Cam Brown, Koa Farmer, and, especially, Brandon Smith have stepped up well into that void. It will be easy to ease Bell and Cabinda back in, but it'll be tough for Cabinda to supplant Brandon Smith at the MLB spot.
Penn State will give a valiant effort, heading into the half with just a three-point deficit. However, the Buckeyes offense will prove to be too potent as they blow open the lead at halfway through the third quarter.
Trace McSorley will have a solid outing, gaining 270 yards through the air and two touchdowns. Per tradition, he will also throw a pick-six. Mike Gesicki will continue his impressive season with 8 catches for 85 yards and a touchdown.
On defense, not only does Brandon Bell return, but he feeds off the electric atmosphere to accumulate 11 tackles, 2 TFLs a sack and a forced fumble, while senior Evan Schwan chips in two sacks as well.
Ohio State 41, Penn State 24