Penn State is in the midst of their most difficult stretch of games in program history, facing five AP Top 25-ranked teams in six games. This team has received so much grief for their performances lately and there is no recognition of the gauntlet they have endure getting to 9-1 this season. They have walked through the fire with a young team and as a reward enter the lion’s den this Saturday to face a team ranked second in the College Football Playoff rankings and winning games by an average of nearly 43 points. There’s no reason to believe everything will suddenly click into place for this team in Columbus and yet, for the first time since Idaho, there’s really no expectations on them entering the game so perhaps they can play relaxed and loose and shock everyone.
Penn State 32, Ohio State 31
All right, let’s get this over with.
Penn State is a young team, which early in the season learned and got better as it went. When the Lions went up 21-0 on Michigan they reached the apex of the season, and have since returned to Earth. The defense is suddenly incapable of stopping any team with a pulse in the passing game, and the offense is sluggish at best without Hamler and Cain. OSU can pass the ball quite well, and are athletic enough on defense that even IF both Hamler and Cain return, it won’t matter much.
The Lions will score some points, to be sure, but I no longer trust the defense to stop any talented offense. My game plan, were I Brent Pry, would be to man up every WR, jam them at the line, and stack every other defender in the box. Take away the run entirely, and hope that the DBs can hold their own long enough for the 7-8 dudes in the box to get home.
The game that (almost) all of us had pegged as a loss in the preseason will turn out to be just that. And unlike the last few years, I don’t think it will be close. Get out of Columbus healthy, that’s all I ask.
Ohio State 42, Penn State 17
Penn State is a good team. That said, Ohio State might be the best team in the country and by a lot. Factor in this game being in Columbus and... gulp.
I believe the Nittany Lion offense will score some. However, even if KJ Hamler and Noah Cain play it will not be nearly enough. Ohio State’s offense is one of the most prolific in the country which is a big enough problem but considering Penn State’s pass rush has been almost nonexistent the last five games and the secondary has been torched the past two weeks, and, well, let’s say my confidence in the defense is less than zero.
The past three seasons this has been the game of the year in the Big 10. While it’s being hyped as that again, and understandably so as it’s #2 vs #8 with the winner taking the B1G East and having the inside track to reach the College Football Playoff, I do not expect a fourth consecutive instant classic.
No matter what happens Saturday afternoon this season has been a successful one. The Vegas over/under on preseason wins was 8.5, and Penn State will finish the regular season with at least 10 wins. With this strong season Penn State has regained recruiting momentum and is in position to be a preseason CFP favorite in 2020. Don’t be afraid to remind yourself this as often as you need to in order to try and feel better on Saturday.
Ohio State 59, Penn State 24
Don’t get me wrong, Penn State is a talented team, maybe perhaps the best team to come into Columbus in several years. The problem is, Ohio State is maybe the best team in the country.
Justin Fields has been remarkably efficient, and unfortunately he will carve up the Penn State secondary that has shown more than a few cracks. Combine the Buckeye air attack with JK Dobbins, and you have a recipe for a disappointing Saturday.
Ohio State 49, Penn State 20
As opposed to my beaming ray of sunshine self, I’m actually quite pessimistic about this one. I struggled to see a way that Penn State can actually win this game. I do, however, think that the experts in Vegas are generally more keen to these sorts of things than the rest of us, and with the line hovering around 17-19 this week, I imagine the final spread will probably be there about. The Buckeyes win big, but not quite as big as my colleagues believe.
Ohio State 41, Penn State 21
James Franklin’s crew has kept things competitive with Ohio State during the entirety of his Penn State coaching career (even the 38-10 loss in 2015 saw PSU driving in the red zone early in the 4th quarter down 24-10). I think that remains the case this Saturday. However, the Buckeyes just have way too much firepower offensively and are too stout defensively (especially with Chase Young conveniently back from suspension) for me to predict a PSU win with a straight face. The Nits will hang around before the floodgates open a bit in the fourth quarter.
Ohio State 45, Penn State 24
I’ve been told that one should be so honored to be on the same field as Ohio State this season. Their historic season is what legends are written about. We will one day tell our children how, the greatest team in the history of college football took the field, on November 23rd, and all the opposition could do was watch in awe, amazement, even. In fact, the notion that this game is merely a formality, and shouldn’t be played, may have come up once or twice. What’s the point in competing when you know you’re guaranteed to lose by at least five scores?
I guess I only have one response to that: FOH.
Penn State 56, Ohio State 17
I’ve been trying to get into the optimistic part of my brain that shows me the path to a Penn State victory. Unfortunately, I just can’t find it (although the last time I was this pessimistic about a Penn State game was when these teams met in 2016, for what it’s worth). The best-case scenario is your typical upset recipe- win the turnover battle, limit big plays, avoid costly mistakes, and most importantly, plenty of long drives to keep Fields and company on the sideline. However, even if it turns into a defensive slugfest it seems likely that the Buckeyes’ slew of playmakers will eventually strike against a tired defense, even if they are held in-check most of the game. However the game plays out, I just don’t see the Nittany Lion offense being able to keep pace.
My best guess is that Ohio State opens up an early two-score lead, and Penn State strikes back to stay within 10 points or so most of the contest before the Buckeyes playmakers take over and pull ahead late in the third quarter or early in the fourth. It will be a frustrating afternoon for the boys in blue, but at least Rutgers is on tap for next week.
Ohio State 42, Penn State 21