This was set to be a season-defining matchup, but Penn State lost its opener so the magnitude of the game took a big hit.
That said, Ohio State is still rated as one of the best teams in the country and this matchup is never guaranteed. That didn’t stop the Buckeyes from opening as -10 point road favorites and is now as high as -12.5 in spots. The total is 64.5.
This game could be closer than a lot of people think, at least based on history. Ohio State has won the last three games, but none of those were decided by more than 11 points, which was last year.
Penn States Loss a Fluke?
But the biggest reminder is that Penn State’s opening loss to Indiana was a bit fluky. In addition to the last score being questionable, the Nittany Lions outgained the Hoosiers 488 to 211 in terms of total yardage.
The Lions controlled the game for the most part, but a costly turnover put them in a hole early and then Indiana’s offense found some magic late.
The big thing for Penn State is that its offense was solid in that first game outside of the turnovers. Quarterback Sean Clifford is in his second year as the full-time starter and he’s the main reason this game could be competitive.
Clifford Hurt in Last Years Game
And while PSU scored 17 points in last year’s meeting, it’s worth noting 14 of those were scored in the first half prior to Clifford’s injury. His rushing ability is the main reason Penn State should move the ball because that’s what Nebraska’s Adrian Martinez did last weekend, rushing for 85 yards and a touchdown.
Clifford is a fine passer, but his legs may be his most useful asset in this contest after rushing for 119 yards against Indiana. Similar to that game, running back Devyn Ford should also see a lot of touches, assuming Ohio State doesn’t get out to an overwhelming lead.
Even if PSU has to play catch up, Clifford is a decent passer and has viable targets in Jahan Dotson and Pat Freiermuth.
The question is if PSU’s defense can do anything against Justin Fields and company. Fields was unstoppable in the first game, completing 20-of-21 passes for 13.1 yards per attempt along with 54 rushing yards and three total touchdowns.
Trey Sermon and Master League split touches out of the backfield, while Garrett WIlson and Chris Olave did most of the damage in the receiving game. Some of the skill players are new, but that doesn’t matter much since it’s OSU, especially with a returning stud under center.
It’s hard to compare the first games for each of these teams because Nebraska wasn’t expected to be a good team and Penn State simply couldn’t get out of its own way against Indiana. However, at home, against Ohio State, anything can happen.
The Nittany Lions have the quarterback to stay competitive and their defense could give Fields some issues again. There’s a reason OSU had just 28 points in last year’s game and that came at home in a packed stadium.
Last weeks results immediately creates some added line value with the underdog. Obviously, had Penn State rolled last week, this line would likely be a TD or less.
As mentioned above, Penn State certainly can compete here. One angle we’ve been using successfully is to play live dogs in the 1st half and 1st quarter.
If there turns out to be a talent gap, or one teams too deep, that often doesn’t become evident until well into the 2nd half.
So, we’ll divide our unit for this game into 3 equal parts.
Penn State +3.5 1st quarter
Penn State +7 1st half
Penn State +12.5 for the game – watch the board, this line may rise