The No. 3 ranked Ohio State Buckeyes travel to Happy Valley this weekend to take on the Penn State Nittany Lions in the biggest Big Ten game of the weekend.
Ohio State is coming off a 52-17 beat down of Nebraska, and the Cornhuskers actually competed in that game, but the Buckeyes pulled away and rolled. Penn State was upset in overtime by Indiana, and now their backs are against the wall.
The Irish Breakdown staff makes their predictions for this game, which could have a major impact for Notre Dame come College Football Playoff time.
BRYAN DRISKELL, PUBLISHER
Prediction: Ohio State 41, Penn State 20
With everything they went through to even play this season, I fully expect this to be a motivated and focused Ohio State team. Happy Valley has been a tough place to play for the Buckeyes, who lost 24-21 to the Nittany Lions on the road in 2016 and had to come back from being down 26-14 in the fourth quarter to win there in 2018.
There won't, however, be over 110,000 screaming Penn State fans in the stadium this time, which very much plays into Ohio State's favor.
Penn State is down its top two backs, and the ground performance (250 yards) against Indiana wasn't as impressive as the numbers would indicate. Ohio State's front struggled in the opener, but it's a group with talent and I expect it to play better this week. Penn State will need to run the ball effectively to set up the downfield passing game, but if the Buckeyes slow down the Nittany Lion ground attack I don't think Penn State has the outside weapons to score with the Buckeyes.
The Nittany Lions have a very talented front four, but the linebackers and secondary aren't nearly as impressive. Penn State doesn't match up well against the Ohio State wideouts, and quarterback Justin Fields is a much better player now than he was when these two teams met last November.
If the Ohio State offensive line plays like it did in the second half of last week's game I expect the Buckeyes to pull away and win in impressive fashion. If the Penn State defensive line can harass Fields and the run game this game could be much closer, but the Buckeyes win either way.
VINCE DEDARIO, FOOTBALL ANALYST
Prediction: Ohio State 49, Penn State 20
Newsflash: Ohio State is really good. They have a big time quarterback in Justin Fields, who went 20/21 last week and threw for multiple touchdowns. He makes it look too easy and will continue to do so against Penn State.
The Nittany Lions are still smarting after the OT loss to Indiana on a controversial call that fell the way of the Hoosiers. Their season is literally on the line Saturday. If they don't win they are out of the hunt for the Big Ten title and, of course, any hopes at the Playoffs. Dressing up 106,500 seats with white shirts won't hold off the Buckeyes in this one.
RYAN PALMERI, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Ohio State 35, Penn State 23
Ohio State looked vulnerable on the defensive line. They have replaced 5 starters in the front seven and it will take some time to get things clicking. Everyone will think Penn State is a fraud after the loss to Indiana, but they had multiple turnovers and missed field goals. The Nittany Lions dominated everywhere else. Ohio State is far too talented but this won't be a 40+ point blowout.
BRIAN SMITH, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Ohio State 34, Penn State 20
The speed of Ohio State’s wide receivers will be the difference. Chris Olave, Garrett Wilson and Julian Fleming will all help quarterback Justin Fields throw for over 250-yards and two touchdowns.
Penn State quarterback Sean Clifford needs his young wide receivers to play big, as Jahan Dotson will likely be double covered. That’s a difficult fact to overcome. Penn State’s rushing attack needs to be excellent as well, but they are now down their top two backs. In the end, Ohio State simply has more playmakers and that’s the difference Saturday night
J.P. SCOTT, IB CONTRIBUTOR
Prediction: Ohio State 37, Penn State 20
Penn State was exposed last weekend as being not quite as talented as we assumed they would be. In the meantime, Ohio State took awhile to get things rolling against Nebraska, but once they did, we saw why many people around the country feel like the Buckeyes are one of the top 2-3 teams in the country. I see another big game from quarterback Justin Fields en route to a big Buckeye win. This game might be different if they were allowed to fill Beaver Stadium to capacity. Because they can't, home field means nothing in this one.
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