Ohio State vs. Penn State Preview and Prediction

Big 10 championship stakes on the line
STATE COLLEGE, PA - SEPTEMBER 29: Parris Campbell #21 of the Ohio State Buckeyes in action against the Penn State Nittany Lions on September 29, 2018 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

The 2nd ranked Ohio State Buckeyes host the 8th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions in Columbus this Saturday. In recent years, this game hasn’t been a typical Big 10 conference game; it has developed into a rivalry with playoff implications. The teams first met in 1912, and the Buckeyes hold the 19-14 series lead. Ohio State has won eight of the last ten matchups between the two teams, dating back to 2009. They most recently edged out Penn State 27-26 in State College, Pennslyvania. Back in 2017, the Buckeyes came back from a 35-20 deficit in the 3rd quarter and won 39-38. The year before that, Penn State upset the 2nd ranked Buckeyes 24-21. For the past few years, this back and forth rivalry hasn’t ceased to disappoint. While Ohio State may look like a better team on paper, Penn State will put up a fight in this must-see matchup.

The Edge on Defense

According to ncaa.com, Ohio State has the best defense in college football. The Buckeyes allow 3.52 yards per play, which is the fewest in the nation. Additionally, Ohio State has given up the fewest total yards (2164), touchdowns (11), and yards per game (216.4). Penn State also has an outstanding defense that ranks 17th nationally. The Nittany Lions are 11th in yards allowed per play, 7th in touchdowns allowed (16), and 17th in total yards given up per game (316.2). Ohio State has an edge on defense, but neither team has been tested by a defense or offense as good as the other.

The Edge on Offense

The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions both have successful passing offenses. Only an 8th of a yard separates the two passing offenses in terms of yards per game (although the statistic favors Ohio State.) The true distinction between these offenses can be found in their running games. The Buckeyes offensive line is 2nd to only Clemson (per footballoutsiders.com.) While Penn State has an above-average offensive line, their running game has not been as successful, two years removed from the Saquon Barkley era. The Buckeyes are averaging 287.4 rushing yards per game compared to Penn State’s 173.1 per game. Heisman candidate quarterback, Justin Fields, will be truly tested for the second time this season. How the Buckeyes quarterback handles the spotlight and pressure will determine the success of the Ohio State offense.

Final Score and Prediction

The Buckeyes are currently favored by 18 points, which might seem like a lofty spread to cover, given that the Nittany Lions have a chip on their shoulders. On the other hand, the Buckeyes have Chase Young back, home-field advantage, and a playoff berth on their minds. Ohio State won’t struggle to hand Penn State their second loss of the season. I expect Penn State to keep this game close at half time, but Ohio State will pull away in the 3rd quarter to win 48-20.

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