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Staff Predictions: Penn State vs. Ohio State

Penn State, 5-1, travels to No. 1 Ohio State this weekend. We all know the exposition for this game: Ohio State won the National Championship last year after controversially sneaking by the Nittany Lions in Beaver Stadium. The Buckeyes are undefeated entering this game, this time at the Horseshoe.

Unfortunately, discounting the staff optimists, we also mostly think we know how this game is going to go: a decisive win for the country’s alleged best team.

Ben Rappaport (season record 3-1): Ohio State 31, Penn State 17

This game is going to be hell to watch. Either it will be a complete Ohio State blow out or a nail biter. The No. 1 team in the country will come out firing and although this Penn State team is very talented, I can’t see James Franklin and Co. pulling out the victory. With a relatively easy stretch of games, Penn State fans have a skewed perception of their team.
Sure, the play-calling has gotten better and the running back situation will be a bit a healthier, it still doesn’t fix the problems the offensive line has had against quality pass rushes. And the Buckeyes certainly have a quality pass rush. Led by Joey Bosa, the Ohio State defensive line is full of talent and despite having its holes, it generally holds up well against pocket passing quarterbacks. Although the Buckeyes haven’t had to face anyone as talented as Hackenberg so far this season, the offenses that have caused them the most trouble have been dual-threat quarterbacks that excel more on the ground than the air. With that being said, the game could quickly change if Saquon Barkley is back to being his electrifying self. If Penn State wants to keep it close and possibly win, it will have to contain Ezekiel Elliott while really hitting the Buckeyes hard with its own rushing attack. It’ll be up to Austin Johnson, Carl Nassib, and the one and only Anthony Zettel, to have stand-out performances to put the pressure on the Buckeyes. In the end, I don’t think it will be enough, although I really, really, hope it is.

Cade Reed (season record 3-0): Penn State 24, Ohio State 20

There’s going to be a party in Happy Valley on Saturday night. All signs point to the Nittany Lions stealing their first victory against tOSU and their first victory in Columbus since 2011 this week. In what I predict to be a battle of two of the country’s best defenses, I think Penn State will emerge victorious.
If anyone can stop Ezekiel Elliott, it’s going to be a defensive line consisting of Anthony Zettel, Austin Johnson, and Carl Nassib. If Penn State can stop Ohio State’s run game from developing early, it will place a lot of pressure on the struggling Cardale Jones. While Penn State’s offense hasn’t been stellar this year, Christian Hackenberg and Co. are coming off a breakout performance against Indiana last week. Saquon Barkley looks to come back and show off his skills against Penn State’s first real opponent of the season.
We knew Penn State would lose one bad game this season, and it happened to be Temple. Penn State won’t enter The Shoe undefeated like some predicted, but the fire is there for the good guys to pull one out on primetime national television. Penn State will wear its clean white uniforms against the villains in black and I think, the boys from Happy Valley will end the run of the reigning National Champions on their own turf.

Kaitlyn Dividock (season record 5-0): Ohio State 35, Penn State 17

God, I want to believe in the Nittany Lions. My blue and white stained heart wants nothing more than a rough, tough, and gritty upset at The Shoe more than I can accurately put into words. But the more I feed that obvious fantasy, the more my gut wants to knock some sense into me.
This rivalry is huge for the Big Ten. That’s right, Buckeye fans! I said rivalry. This game has been anxiously awaited all year, and with the reveal of Ohio State’s new black-out uni’s and a slated prime time kickoff, there’s no denying it anymore. Get over it, Ohio State.
What Penn State needs to do to shake the confidence of this strong Ohio State team is really quite simple. Franklin must lead his powerful defense to another chaotic game that causes turnovers and pounds the living hell out of Ezekiel Elliott. Christian Hackenberg has to be absolutely flawless and throw for 400 yards. And finally, Saqoun Barkley needs to start and record a few touchdowns, because Penn State has ​no chance​ without him. The Buckeyes have so much talent on both sides of the ball, so to beat them, Penn State just has to be perfect. No big deal, right? The Nittany Lions will show promise in the first half, but Ohio State’s unrelenting talent will carry it to a home victory.

Ben Berkman (season record 5-1): Ohio State 23, Penn State 17

With difficult games to predict, it’s best to turn to the laws of math for some help. One of those laws is the transitive property of equality. If a equals b and b equals c, then a equals c. And if a is greater than b, and b is greater than c, then a must be greater than c. Applied to Penn State’s chances against No. 1 Ohio State this weekend, because the Nittany Lions beat Indiana by 22 points (27-9), and the Buckeyes beat the Hoosiers by only 7 (34-27), it’s obvious that Penn State will emerge victorious by 15 points (22 minus 7).
But because it’s an unwritten rule that playing at home tilts the spread by about a touchdown, some adjustments are needed. Subtract that added touchdown, the Lions beat Indiana by only 15, and the Buckeyes (playing on the road) really won by 14. Therefore, my (un)mathematical conclusions suggest Penn State should win by one point Saturday in the Horseshoe.
But wait! Because Penn State travels to Ohio State, we can add one more touchdown in the enemy’s favor. When it’s all said and done, the Buckeyes will squeak past the Lions by six points.

Doug Leeson (season record 4-2): Ohio State 31, Penn State 21

Penn State actually is the better team in a couple of different matchups — not necessarily head-to-head, but individually. Hackenberg is better than Jones. Barkley is, based on a tiny sample size, better than Elliott. Nassib is better than Bosa. But, most importantly, Urban Meyer is better than James Franklin. Penn State will score a decent amount of points, maybe even first, but the difference between these teams is depth and coaching. Penn State has statistically gone cold in the second half, especially the third quarter. Ohio State scores more and more as the game goes on. The Buckeyes will wear down the Nittany Lions, so the only way this is a win for the good guys is if they score enough in the first half to make a comeback impossible. Sorry, won’t happen. See you in Baltimore next weekend to become bowl-eligible.

Jacob Abrams (season record 5-1): Ohio State 28, Penn State 17

Obviously, Ohio State is no joke. This team rallied throughout the 2014 season after a shocking loss, survived a scare in Happy Valley, and waltzed its way to a National Championship win. Fans may believe that the tight game against the Buckeyes last year is reason to believe that the Nittany Lions have a shot this year. Unfortunately, their chances are very slim.

The doubt that’s already forming around the Nittany Lions in this game is substantial. Ohio State is a 19-point favorite over Penn State, so you could say that no one is giving this team a shot to have the biggest upset of the season. While the point spread is shocking, a loss would not be. This is a Penn State team with a lackluster passing attack going up against one of the premier passing defenses in the Big Ten. For both teams, defense will be the key to victory.

 Ohio State has shown its ball-hawking abilities on the defensive end. The Buckeyes have eight interceptions so far this season, and are only giving up 147.5 yards per game. Their passing defense is dominant thanks to its front seven, headlined by Joey Bosa. Christian Hackenberg will have a lot of trouble  finding his receivers in this game because of the reduced time in the pocket. While the possible return of Saquon Barkley gives this team a chance, I’m not confident that the Nittany Lions return to Happy Valley 6-1.

Patrick Koerbler (season record 4-0): Ohio State 30, Penn State 14

The Buckeyes rightfully came into the season with much fanfare, but they haven’t been the well-oiled machine college football pundits expected. It’d be a stretch to say that Ohio State has struggled this season, but it hasn’t been all that impressive either, allowing mediocre teams like Northern Illinois and Indiana to hang around for far too long.

Even with Ohio State’s subpar performances, it’s extremely difficult to pick Penn State here. The Nittany Lions have yet to face a secondary that will boast the talent Ohio State possesses, so look for safeties Tyvis Powell and Vonn Bell to make life difficult for Hackenberg and his receiving corps. And while the (probable) return of Saquon Barkley will provide a big boost to John Donovan’s offense, Ohio State’s defense may just be too talented to overcome, sending the Nittany Lions back to State College with a loss.

Matt Coleman (season record 4-1): Penn State 24, Ohio State 21

Yes, you read that correctly, and I’m really confident with that prediction. Penn State has the talent and, more importantly, Ohio State has enough problems to allow the Nittany Lions to pull off the upset of the season.
Ohio State’s defense is far and away better than any of the other teams’ defenses Penn State has faced this year, and there’s no doubt it will cause problems for the Nittany Lions’ passing game. The probable return of Saquon Barkley should spark the running game, although it will still be a battle with the outstanding defense of Ohio State. Expect to see Christian Hackenberg open up the secondary if the running game can get some yardage. Receivers like Saeed Blacknall, DaeSean Hamilton, and Brandon Polk have enough speed and talent to beat the Buckeyes’ secondary.

Penn State’s defense has played phenomenally all year, and with the Buckeyes’ offense continuing to have problems, the Nittany Lions are more than capable of shutting down the Buckeyes.

The really bold prediction of the game comes from the man making the game winning field goal. Joey “Big Toe” Julius, the kicker who missed two extra points and was pulled from last game, will come up clutch with his first big moment, reminiscent of some other kicker Penn State recently had. Let’s have some fun with this one and beat the Buckeyes.

David Abruzzese (season record 5-1): Penn State 27, Ohio State 24

Let me keep this short and simple. This Penn State team is better than we’ve taken it to be. The Ohio State Buckeyes are the top team in the nation, and with good reason. The Buckeye offensive attack is dominant, led by one of the premier running backs in the country, and flanked by a litany of talent at the wide receiver position. Why, you may be asking, would I have the audacity to suggest a Penn State upset bid? Two words: Saquon Barkley.

I could go on and on about how talented Barkley is, but I don’t need to — you already knew that. What you might not know is that despite fielding one of the best teams ever seen on paper, the Buckeyes aren’t as consistently dominant as one might think. The team ranks in the middle of the pack nationally in stopping the run, and consistently finds itself being swarmed by stretch blocking, allowing for big gains to slip through the cracks. Indiana did it, Maryland did it, and expect Penn State to do it too. Saquon Barkley can make something out of nothing, taking inches of daylight and turning it into and explosive run. Barkley is special, and expect him to do special things against the top-ranked Buckeyes.

The odds might be stacked against the Lions, but last year’s circumstances were virtually the same. Remember how that one ended?
It’s safe to say the bitter taste left Penn State’s mouth after that game will be on the team’s mind come Saturday night. Just a thought.

Ethan Kasales (season record 5-0): Penn State 31, Ohio State 24 in 3OT

I was ten-years-old on Oct. 8, 2005, the year Tamba Hali put Troy Smith on his head for the game-clinching fumble in one of the biggest upsets in Penn State history, a 17-10 shocker in Beaver Stadium. I remember dancing to the Four Seasons’ “December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night)” while the metal bleachers shook.
ESPN’s Kirk Herbstreit (an Ohio State quarterback I might add) famously stated afterward, “that’s the best student section in the country, they’re crazy.” And while I might be crazy for saying this, I expect the Nittany Lions to pull off the unthinkable, taking down the nation’s No. 1 team ten years and ten days later.
Sure, the Buckeyes doled out a 63-14 shellacking last time Penn State traveled to the ‘Shoe, and superhuman running back Ezekiel Elliott has put up 11-straight 100-yard games, but I have faith that Ohio State will finally drop its first B1G regular season contest under Urban Meyer despite a “Black-Out” environment. Look for Carl Nassib to secure the game-winning sack in triple overtime, giving Joey Bosa some of his own medicine.

Tim Reams (season record 3-1): Penn State 24, Ohio State 17 in OT

This game is quite the David and Goliath matchup. As a biased source, I want Penn State to take home a victory every week from a personal standpoint. From an analytical standpoint, my mind and heart can’t always agree.  Last week I believed that Penn State wouldn’t stop the likes of the Indiana offense if the Penn State offense didn’t give the defense a break, but with a smile on my face, I was dead wrong. This week, I hope to be correct with a bold prediction. Penn State will defeat Ohio State, in overtime. Penn State’s offense has only grown since that painful Temple loss, and it will only look to further improve, as it has done every single week. The Ohio State defense should match up with No.1 defenses from years past, but its inability to seal the edge in the run game, as well as defend the deep ball at times, will bring its ultimate demise. With a defense with multiple guys who will be playing on Sunday’s for years to come, it should be a behemoth force to be reckoned with.

But even Goliath fell. Penn State doesn’t have this blazing offense by any means. The Ohio State defense will have itself a game, and it’ll get multiple stops, but with the likes of Saquon Barkley possibly returning and Hackenberg heating up, the Penn State offense will be putting points on the board. Where the Nittany Lions will flourish, dominate, and upset the No. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes is on the defensive side of the ball.  Last year the Nittany Lions played like a championship defense, and they will deliver nothing short of the same or even better. Something not many people are talking about is the holes in the Ohio State offensive line. Many fans from other schools take their offensive lines for granted. As a former offensive lineman, I can attest to the importance they play. It all starts up front. And for Ohio State, it all ends up front. The Penn State defense is going to play its best game yet, and it will be feasting on Buckeyes all night. My predictions are bold, but every Penn Stater has felt that upset brewing. It’s been far too long since we’ve seen a thriller, and it’s been even longer since we took down the No.1 Goliath team. Penn State will emerge victorious in an overtime shootout. Even Goliath had to fall, and the Penn State defense will certainly be David in Columbus on Saturday.

Sara Civian (season record 0-1): Ohio State wins, Penn State loses

Every single time I predict even the most innocuous of numbers, the Sports Gods punish me with something far worse. Will the Nittany Lions get crushed? I don’t think so. It will be one of the most exciting games of the season, with two of the nation’s top defenses.The bad news for Penn State is that Ohio State is figuring out its quarterback situation. Its strong offensive showing last weekend against Maryland makes me seriously doubt a Penn State victory. But, as any Penn State fan knows, anything goes against the Buckeyes. This game will give us a glimpse into what the future holds for breakout players like Saquon Barkley (if he plays). Per usual, Penn State’s hot-and-cold offense will be the difference between a win and a loss, or a loss and a heartbreaker.

What’s your prediction? Tell us in the comments below.

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