Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Ohio State
It’s time for another football Saturday. Kicking off tomorrow evening at 8 p.m., Penn State (4-2, 1-1) will face the No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0, 3-0) on the road at the Horseshoe in the third conference game of the season. The Nittany Lions will try and keep the momentum going from their four-overtime shocker against the Michigan Wolverines two weeks ago. Let’s take a look at what our writers think about the game:
Ohio State 34, Penn State 24
The worst thing for Penn State fans about this game is probably the fact that it will be close and it will look winnable, but the Nittany Lions won’t win. A close loss to the Buckeyes would be devastating, but it’s almost an inevitability unless Penn State manages to play well above its talent level. The simple fact of the matter is that the Ohio State Buckeyes are a better, more disciplined, more mature team.
Christian Hackenberg will get the bulk of the work on offense as running backs Zach Zwinak and Bill Belton struggle to move the ball against a strong OSU defensive line. He will have his share of success, connecting for a touchdown or two, most likely to Allen Robinson or Brandon Felder.
But the defense won’t be able to stop the Ohio State offense enough to lead Penn State to a win. Braxton Miller will do what Braxton Miller does and he’ll throw for at least one touchdown and rush for at least one touchdown. Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall will do some damage on the ground too and the Buckeyes will put Penn State away at some point in the second half.
Ohio State 38, Penn State 21
So, this is going to suck. Ohio State is the only team Penn State plays this year that is straight up better than the Nittany Lions. I want to sit here and say that Ohio State has been the least impressive top-5 team in college football this year, and that at some point this season, they’re due for a letdown, but I just can’t. Penn State has struggled this year against quarterbacks who can run and throw — Devin Gardner, Nate Sudfeld, even Blake Bortles to an extent — and few are better at that than Ohio State’s Braxton Miller.
I think that Penn State tries to have Stephen Obeng-Agyapong spy him all game, but Miller is so talented that it’s impossible to contain him. I think he shreds the Nittany Lions on the ground and through the air while running backs Carlos Hyde and Jordan Hall wear down Penn State’s defense.
On offense, listen, Christian Hackenberg has been incredible this year, mostly because his composure as a freshman. However, I’m worried about him entering one of college football’s most menacing environments. Add in the fact that Ohio State is the Big Ten’s third best rushing defense, and I think Hackenberg is dared to throw. I think he has a nice game, probably not his best due to Allen Robinson getting matched up with one of college football’s best defensive backs in Bradley Roby, but I don’t think it’s enough.
Ohio State 41, Penn State 21
Two weekends ago the football gods were on our side. I don’t see that happening two games in a row. Ohio State is playing for its 20th straight win and to stay in BCS National Championship contention in front of a home crowd. Last weekend Braxton Miller put up huge numbers against Iowa, completing 81 percent of his passes and running for over 100 yards.
The Nittany Lions are going to have trouble containing him as well as slowing down running back Carlos Hyde. If they spread out too much, it could get very ugly very fast. But the Ohio State defense did have a less than stellar performance last weekend. If Penn State’s offense can capitalize on every opportunity and score fast they might have a fighting chance.
Hackenberg and Co. are coming off of a huge win but they are entering into enemy territory. Hackenberg has proven that he has the poise to handle the big games, but he has never experienced Columbus. At the end of the day, the home team wins.
Ohio State 41, Penn State 20
Night game + The Shoe + a freshman QB = not a recipe for success. Ohio State has the best offense that Penn State will see all season. It starts with Braxton Miller; this year he looks like an improved passer, and, unfortunately for Penn State, he looks healthy as well. Miller has plenty of weapons to work with, most notably workhorse running back Carlos Hyde and one of the best receiver corps in the Big Ten.
More importantly, Ohio State has a veteran offensive line that is one of the best in the conference. On the bright side, Ohio State’s defense isn’t quite as strong. While they do have some accolades, their secondary has been spotty which will give Christian Hackenberg plenty of opportunities. I can see Penn State hanging around early on.
That said, heart and passion can only carry you for so long. Ohio State simply has too many weapons and a considerable amount more depth. On top of all that, Penn State will have to adjust to playing in the soul-sucking wasteland that is Ohio.
Ohio State 34, Penn State 17
Bill O’Brien will need to come out with a great game plan to exploit Ohio State’s struggling defense. If Penn State’s offensive line can give Christian Hackenberg time against Ohio State’s potent defensive line, look for him to make use of his tight ends to create mismatches with the Ohio State secondary on offense. With Iowa’s tight ends giving Ohio State fits last week, this might be the game plan if Bradley Roby shuts down Allen Robinson.
Ohio State’s skill players may be too much to handle for Penn State’s secondary this week. After giving up 240 yards passing and three touchdowns to Michigan two weeks ago, Penn State will need to drastically improve to be able to remotely shutdown Ohio State’s receivers. Look for Ohio State to run up the score late if they are up to attempt to improve its BCS ranking after being jumped by Florida State last week.