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A Big Ten battle with massive implications here as the Ohio State Buckeyes host the Penn State Nittany Lions. Both teams still have hopes for the playoff, and this is a season-defining game for both sides. Penn State is coming off a win over Indiana, while Ohio State is coming off a Beatdown of Rutgers. Oddsmakers opened the Buckeyes is a sizable favorite for this one, which will be televised nationally on FOX.
Penn State has been having a very successful season overall, but their recent lost Minnesota set them back a bit. Still though, they enter this one ranked 9th in the nation, and seem to control their own destiny. If they can win this one they're almost certainly headed to the Big Ten title game, where they should be able to put themselves into the playoff with a win.
Ohio State hasn't had any problems replacing Dwayne Haskins, as they enter this one with an undefeated record. Justin Fields has been sensational at quarterback, and nobody has even come close to knocking off the Buckeyes. They haven't won a game by less than 24 points all season, but they also haven't faced a team nearly as tough as this Penn State one.
Penn State Controls DestinyPenn State has overall been having a very successful season. After quarterback Trace McSorley graduated and went to the NFL, a lot of people expected Penn State to take a step back. They didn't really miss a beat while transitioning to Sean Clifford under center, and they started the year off 8-0. They dropped an important game to Minnesota two weeks ago, but bounced back with a win over a ranked Indiana team this past week. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions they still control their own destiny, and if they win this one they will almost certainly be heading to the Big Ten championship game. As such, the Minnesota loss might not end up mattering too much. Even though Penn State lost to Minnesota they were clearly the more talented team, and they out-gained the Gophers.
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Penn State once again has an explosive offense, and Clifford has thrown 22 touchdowns through ten games. Receiver K.J. Hamler already has eight touchdowns, is one of the fastest players in college football, and is averaging 17.2 yards per reception. Penn State also has one of the best tight ends in the country in Pat Freiermuth. The real story of this Penn State team though has been the defense. They've had arguably the best run defense in all of college football, and they're only giving up 2.19 yards per carry this season, which ranks first in the nation. As such, Ohio State is going to need to throw the ball on them. The key to this game is going to be whether Penn State's imposing pass rush, led by Yetur Gross-Matos and Shaka Toney, can get pressure on Justin Fields.
Ohio State UndefeatedOhio State has pretty much been having a perfect season. The Buckeyes enter this one at 10-0, and they have a clear path to the College Football Playoff. Not only have they been winning games, they've been winning them all by blowout margins. Of their ten wins, not a single one has come by less than 24 points. All that being said, they have faced a pretty easy schedule. They didn't face anybody difficult during the non-conference slate, and they have their two toughest conference games of the year saved for last. In the next two weeks against Penn State and Michigan, Ohio State will get tested more than they have all season. Ohio State is also coming off a game where they didn't look their best.
As massive favorites of more than 50 points against Rutgers, they only won by 35 and let Rutgers score 21. Rutgers is the worst team in the Big Ten, so it wasn't exactly an inspiring performance. The last time Ohio State hosted Penn State it was an extremely close game that came down to the wire, with Ohio State winning by one point. OSU has only played one game against a team currently ranked in the top 25 all season, so it's possible their metrics are bit distorted. That being said, their metrics are quite good. Just like Penn State they have an elite run defense, so I don't think either team is going to be running the ball too much here. It's all going to come down to whether Justin Fields can out-duel Clifford. Fields has been electric but he is still a young player without a ton of experience, and this is by far the best defense he'll have faced.
Trends, courtesy of Covers.com: Nittany Lions are:
- 6-1 ATS in their last 7 games following an ATS loss
- 19-9-2 ATS vs. a team with a winning record
- 34-16-1 ATS in their last 51 games following a straight up win
The Bottom Line What to bet on this game.
Full-Game Side Bet
This spread is way too large. This is a bitter rivalry game between two opponents know each other well, and the last time Ohio State hosted Penn State the only won by one. Ohio State just gave up 21 points to Rutgers, so I don't see how they're going to be able to completely shut down Penn State's offense in this one. Penn State still pretty much controls their own destiny to get to the playoff, so I don't think their loss in Minnesota demoralized them at all. Ohio State has been coasting by playing a very easy schedule, and this game could be a shock to their system.
Prediction: Penn State +18.5
Full-Game Total Pick
I also think the over makes a lot of sense here. Neither of these defenses are as good as they've seemed, as they have both played a very easy schedule of opposing offenses. Ohio State's offense has been simply unstoppable, and they have scored an absurd 129 points over the past two weeks. These teams might have the two best run defenses in the country, so each side is going to be passing the ball a ton here and not even attempting to establish the ground game. The clock will be stoped a lot, and this one has shootout written all over it.