This is a pretty huge week of games, but there is no bigger game than Penn State at Ohio State this week.
The No. 2 Nittany Lions (7-0, 4-0) take on the No. 6 Buckeyes (6-1, 4-0), with Ohio State currently a 6.5-point favorite.
The national media is pretty split on how they see this game going, but what do they know?
What do we know? I have no idea, but here’s what we think.
Enough with the talk or analysis, it’s time for the Buckeyes to prove it on the field against a top-5 opponent. As a fan, time to cheer loud and be the best damn fan you can be, win or lose. If you’re in the stadium, soak up the atmosphere and don’t watch the game through your smart phone camera. There are too few games left in the season to waste your precious energy on an otherwise crappy video and certainly games like this only come around every once in a while. Besides, it will affect your ability to clap and cheer, and The Ozone provides you with way better photos. (Thanks Dan, and get well Jim!)
This is a special game, one that will be remembered years from now. “Remember when Chris Gamble returned the interception for the winning touchdown? That was the loudest I’ve ever heard the Shoe!” will now be replaced with “The Shoe was rockin’ when Tyquan Lewis strip-sacked McSorley and Malik Harrison scooped it up for the score!”
So top off whatever it is you’re drinking, fire up the video of Coach Johnson asking where his dawgs are at, and let’s get ready to beat Penn State.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 17
— Ohio State Football (@OhioStateFB) October 26, 2017
This top-10 matchup presents a big weekend in Columbus with the BTN Tailgate Show, ESPN’s College GameDay, Ohio State’s alternate uniforms, and a black out in The Shoe. I think the Buckeyes wearing their alternate uniforms will give them some extra excitement for this big game.
Recently the rivalry has been growing between these two talented teams. This is a high-stakes game that presents tough competition. Both teams are coming in to this game with an advantage. The Nittany Lions have momentum coming off a huge win against Michigan, and the Buckeyes are coming off a bye week giving them time to rest, get healthy, and come into this game more prepared. They always say that the most-prepared team will win the game.
The Ohio State rushmen will be prepared to face the athleticism of the Penn State offense and Saquon Barkley, but the secondary has to be prepared to shut down their pass game and beat Trace McSorley and his targets in those battles. James Franklin mentioned earlier this week that Nick Bosa and the defensive line are going to be a challenge for them in addition to Jerome Baker. These guys have been a challenge to every team so far, so I am expecting the same against Penn State.
I think this game is going to come down to the Buckeyes’ ability to shut down the Penn State offensive weapons. This Ohio State team is good, and I think they can get the win, but it will not be easy for them.
Ohio State 38, Penn State 24
Penn State has done the only thing they can this season — they’ve played the schedule in front of them. Not that they have played a tough schedule or really been tested this season, but they’ve won the scheduled games as they appear. PSU obviously has an All-World running back and a good supporting cast around Trace McSorley, who somehow mirrors his entire team: overrated and underrated at the same time. McSorley is not a great QB like many have tried to pass him off as, but he’s far from Denard Robinson’s level too.
But like McSorley, the Lions have come into this game overrated (they are not the second-best team in the country) and underrated (they are a lot better than many Buckeye Fans want to credit them with).
For OSU, the game will come to two things: not falling in love with ONLY J.T. Barrett in the rushing attack, and figuring out how to cover Barkley both on the ground and through the air without exposing weaknesses elsewhere. If J.K./Weber lead the team in rushing, the offense will roll.
If the Silver Bullets can cover Barkley without getting gashed by the rest of the PSU offense, the Buckeyes D will hold. We know PSU will score and move the ball, but the Bullets have to bend without breaking. I think both accounts will happen. Ohio State wins, I see it as an “odd score”, winning by two field goals or a missed extra point.
Ohio State 34, Penn State 28.
I feel like I’ve spent the entire season as the resident pessimist on staff, and there are certainly some things that worry me for the Wolves… I mean Buckeyes… this weekend as well.
There are issues in all three phases of the game which could cost OSU a win this weekend. The passing game has been amazing, but still hasn’t done it against a defense close to the caliber of Penn State, and will have to do it behind an offensive line that will be challenged for the first time in more than a month. Outside of Denzel Ward, the defensive backfield is still full of varying degrees of question marks. The special teams feel like they have been close to a net negative this year, although that unit is 37th in S&P+. On a team with the #2 offense and #7 defense, that still stands out as a glaring weakness.
OSU can win if one of those things goes wrong on Saturday, but they will probably lose if two of them do. The forecast looks like it will be rainy and cold, which would hurt the OSU offense, but potentially help the defense. PSU has had its own special teams issues this fall, so as long as the Buckeyes can avoid giving Saquon Barkley a “Hello, Heisman” moment on a kickoff return, that could work out as well.
In the end, I’m taking with the Buckeyes for two reasons: 1) The OSU D-line is a bigger matchup issue for the PSU O-line than the Lions’ DL is for the Buckeyes’ OL. When in doubt, go with the team that’s going to win in the trenches; and 2) Urban Meyer is virtually unbeatable off an in-season bye week.
Ohio State 27, Penn State 24
The weather forecast is making me hedge on my score prediction. Perhaps I am in the minority on this one, but if the weather is rainy, and as I write this, it is supposed to be, I believe that favors Ohio State. [Editor’s note: As of Friday at 11:30 a.m., there is no rain in the afternoon forecast.] Penn State has an explosive offense, but the Nittany Lions are not going to line up and play smash-mouth football in the traditional sense with Saquon Barkley. Barkley is most dangerous when in open space, and as a receiver out of the backfield.
Barkley is going to get his carries, but I am anticipating Ohio State clogging the interior with its defensive line, and relying on the linebacking corps to keep him from getting to the perimeter. With the same logic, I believe the defense has been well-prepared for Trace McSorley with the looks Tate Martell has given them while running the scout team offense in practice.
Throwing the ball effectively and consistently on a rainy day is a risky venture for both teams, but Ohio State is better suited to going to a predominantly run-oriented attack. Will this be the game when Ohio State lines up Mike Weber and J.K. Dobbins in the backfield? Will Ohio State use Rashod Berry as more of a blocking fullback, as they have shown in some of the previous games? My biggest concern offensively for Ohio State is relying too much on J.T. Barrett to carry the ball, as I am expecting Penn State to spy him with Jason Cabinda, especially in scenarios that will scream quarterback draw.
I realize that there are other individuals who are predicting Ohio State with much greater confidence than I am displaying, with the Buckeyes winning by a larger margin. As long as Ohio State has more points than Penn State when this one is all over, I will be happy.
Ohio State 21, Penn State 17
On paper this appears to be a fairly evenly-matched game. Penn State is 16th in the nation in Scoring Offense at 40 points per game while Ohio State is 1st at 47.3 points per game. On the defensive side of the ball, Penn State is 1st in the nation only giving up 9.6 points per game while Ohio State is 10th in the nation giving up 15.4 points per game.
On offense, I believe the Buckeyes will be able to move the ball against Penn State as they have for the better part of the Urban Meyer era. Over that span, the Buckeyes have averaged 440 yards of total offense and 38 points per game. For comparisons sake, the average Penn State Total Defense ranking over that span is 26th in the nation. The biggest key of the game for the offense is whether Meyer and his staff trust the offense to run the mesh routes and RPOs we have seen over the last month or so, or if they decide to give Barrett 27 carries.
Defensively, I am a lot more worried about the Buckeyes. As great as Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki are, the person who worries me the most is DaeSean Hamilton. The Buckeyes have been gashed time and time again by slot guys lined up on linebackers. Ohio State needs to press the WRs and play more zone coverages which will allow the defensive line time to pressure McSorley.
I really wish I could see the first drives for the offense and defense before making a prediction. If you see 3-4 runs by Barrett on the first drive and the defense lined up in man…they could be in trouble. With that said, I have faith they will stick with what has worked so well over the past couple of weeks.
Ohio State 42, Penn State 28.
We know the perfect scenario for Ohio State would be Kevin Wilson unleashing a new scorched-earth offense upon the Nittany Lions defense. We also know that in college football, the perfect scenario is as rare as winning the Powerball.
The bye week comes at a good time for the Buckeyes with an emotionally-charged Penn State team coming to town. The perfect scenario doesn’t need to play out for the slightly-favored Scarlet and Gray. Just do your job and do it well. The end result will have the Victory Bell ringing.
Sure the concern is can Barrett and the offense do what they’ve done the last five games. Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day now know the players. They know what they can get out of them. The Buckeyes will have a three-headed rushing attack with Barrett, Dobbins and Weber, and with all three on the field at the same time. Watch the Penn State defense’s minds explode trying to contain that.
Defensively, the fresh legs of the Buckeyes defensive line will have to show the nation why they are the best in the country. McSorley can make big plays with his legs, so the linemen will have to keep him contained while they collapse the pocket quickly around him. The linebackers will have to stay within themselves while having to try and contain the nation’s best offensive player.
The secondary will have to play aggressively against the passing attack of Penn State, which at times looks like a heave and a prayer. The Silver Bullets have the ability to shut this high-octane offense down. They can allow them to get all kinds of yardage like Iowa did, as long as they keep them out of the end zone. This is more of a revenge game for Penn State than Ohio State.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 17
Firstly, the weather looks like it will be perfect — dry, gray, and 45 degrees. If it’s Archie Griffin temperature out, how can you lose, right? Ohio State has the more talented roster here, but they did against Oklahoma as well. The better roster doesn’t win games, the better team does, and Penn State’s team does things that have given the Buckeyes problems this season.
Still, there is no recent history of Penn State’s offense being too much for an Ohio State defense. For instance, here are the Nittany Lions’ offensive totals against the Buckeyes since 2008.
2016: 276 yards
2015: 315 yards
2014: 240 yards
2013: 357 yards
2012: 359 yards
2011: 327 yards
2010: 272 yards
2009: 201 yards
2008: 281 yards
Those numbers have nothing to do with this game, but that’s three different head coaches and any number of different quarterbacks and running backs. Where there is some carryover, however, is last year, when Tracy McSorley completed just 8-of-23 passes against Ohio State. That being said, they also contained Baker Mayfield in 2016, but what did that get them this year?
I still think the Buckeyes have enough offense to get the win here. I don’t think this is 600 yards against Penn State, but there should be at least 31 points on the board when things are finished. Can the Nittany Lions score 34? I don’t think so. I like J.T. Barrett to have a good day thanks to the Ohio State offensive line and running game. Those running backs are also going to be used in the passing game. Saquon Barkley will get his, but the OSU defensive line is going to make life difficult for anyone not decked out in vibrant gray.
Ohio State 31, Penn State 24