Saturday’s matchup between No. 6 Ohio State and No. 2 Penn State could be the biggest game in the Big Ten this season. Both teams consider themselves not only contenders for the Big Ten title, but national title threats. Before either team can accomplish one of those lofty goals, however, they’ll need to pick up a win in this one.
Date: Saturday, Oct. 28 | Time: 3:30 p.m. ET
Location: Ohio Stadium — Columbus, Ohio
TV: Fox | Live stream: fuboTV (try for free!), FoxSportsGo.com
Ohio State: Ohio State comes into this game on a roll. Its won five in a row by an average of 42 points apiece. Last week, the Buckeyes had over 500 yards of total offense for the fifth straight game, something the program has never done before. There’s a catch, though, and it’s the teams Ohio State has done it against. Not many people are going to take blowout wins over Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland or Nebraska seriously this season, and Penn State is a much tougher test.
J.T. Barrett has been at the head of the offensive resurgence, but he’s struggled against Penn State in the past. During last season’s 24-21 loss, Barrett threw for 245 yards, but needed 43 attempts (5.7 yards per) to get there. He also threw for only one touchdown and was completely bottled up as a rusher. The Bucks need Barrett at his best to pick up a win here.
Penn State: Last week Penn State got revenge on Michigan for the 49-10 loss it suffered at the hands of the Wolverines in 2016. This week, it’s looking for a different kind of vengeance. While the Nittany Lions beat the Buckeyes last year and won the Big Ten, it was Ohio State receiving a playoff bid while Penn State went to the Rose Bowl (a nice consolation prize at least). A win over Ohio State this week might remove all doubt about the Nittany Lions playoff case in 2017.
Both Saquon Barkley and Trace McSorley will need to play well, but the bigger key in this one should be Penn State’s defense. It racked up seven sacks against Michigan last week — Penn State’s most in a game since 2011 — and it will need to get the same kind of pressure on a much more mobile Barrett this week. It’ll also have to make sure to keep Ohio State RB J.K. Dobbins in check.
There are so many ways this game can go, but in the end, I believe the most likely outcome is a lower-scoring, tight-knit affair. So when that’s the case, it’s hard to pass up the 5.5 points Vegas is giving the Nittany Lions here. I also believe Penn State has the better defense, and we’ve seen this season that Ohio State’s secondary has trouble with bigger receivers. Well, there aren’t many teams in the country with more size across the board than Penn State has at receiver and tight end. That will be a problem for Ohio State. Pick: Penn State +5.5