It’s less than 24 hours away, Penn State’s showdown with Ohio State at The Shoe in Columbus.
Here’s how two of our writers see the game unfolding.
Playing its second season-defining road game in the last three weeks, Penn State must come out better prepared to play Ohio State than it did at Minnesota, where the Golden Gophers rolled up 24 points and 321 yards of offense in the first half.
The Nittany Lions’ fourth-ranked rush defense will present the Buckeyes’ J.K. Dobbins with his toughest test of the season. But the issue on defense will be with the pass defense, not only the secondary that has not played well the last two weeks, but also a pass rush that has just 16 sacks in the eight games against opponents not named Idaho or Purdue.
On offense, the Lions will have to utilize their run game to keep Chase Young and his fellow Ohio State pass rushers honest. A lopsided pass-run ratio could put the visitors in some disadvantageous situations. And turnovers against a team that has scored 111 points off opponent miscues will mean a long, long day.
The Lions are young and talented but must play consistent, mistake-free football. It might not be their time yet.
Prediction: Ohio State 38, Penn State 21
Despite Penn State’s loss at Minnesota almost two weeks ago, the stakes in Columbus this Saturday are still the same. For both teams, it’s win and your ticket to Indianapolis for the Big Ten championship game is punched.
The Nittany Lions have played one of the tougher schedules in the country this season and have some impressive wins on their resume, but they haven’t seen a team like this Ohio State team — because there might be only one or two other teams in the country that compare to the Buckeyes.
Simply seeing Justin Fields on the opposing sideline this week will be a painful reminder of what Penn State could have had if he didn’t decommit. But that pain might increase if Fields and the rest of the Ohio State offense do what they’ve done all season long: rack up plenty of points.
This game is going to come down to mistakes. It feels as if the Nittany Lions need to play a nearly flawless offensive game to keep pace with Fields and Co. Ohio native Sean Clifford is going to have to be sharp right from the opening kickoff, or else the Buckeyes might do to the Nittany Lions what they’ve done to just about every opponent that has stood in their way this season.