2023 Ohio State University
This was a matchup that was on everyone's must-watch list for the season well before any game was played. Ohio State and Penn State both began the year with top-10 rankings, new starting quarterbacks, and an elite group of running backs. Seven weeks into the season and nothing has changed in between these two elite level programs. Both teams still sit with their original preseason top-10 rankings as well and despite some injuries to Ohio State, both have shown the ability to run the football at the level that was advertised coming into the season. Truth be told, there is not much that separates these two teams going into the weekend and this is gearing up to be one of the best and potentially one of the most even matchups of the season on paper.
The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions have met 37 times before and Ohio State has won 23 of those matchups including the last six games dating back to 2017. This winning streak is the longest in series history, but has included quite a few nailbiter's along the way. Over the last six games the Buckeyes have an average margin of victory of just eight points against their eastern rivals.
On paper the two are about as even as can be as Penn State has the No. 2 defense in the nation and the Buckeyes are right behind them at No. 3. The Nittany Lions have the No. 5 offense in the nation scoring about 44 points per game while the Buckeyes are ranked No. 21 scoring 36 points per game. Both teams won their only ranked matchup of the season back in week four. In player comparisons Kyle McCord has more passing yards on the season and a higher passer rating, but Drew Allar has one more touchdown, less interceptions, and a slightly better completion percentage. On the ground Penn State's top two running backs in Kaytron Allen and Nick Singleton have combined for 737 yards and nine touchdowns on 167 carries for an average of 4.4 yards per carry. The duo of TreVeyon Henderson and Chip Trayanum have combined for 530 yards and eight touchdowns on 95 carries for an average of 5.6 yards per carry. The Buckeys top receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. has 31 receptions for 604 yards and five touchdowns while Penn State's top man KeAndre Lambert-Smith has pulled in 31 receptions for 402 yards and three touchdowns. So while there are differences in statistics between the two teams, there isn't a significant gap between what these two teams have done and can do on the field.
That has been the storyline of this matchup for the last decade between these playoff contenders. The winner of this game is typically the team that has the better second half and over the last six years that has been the Buckeyes. In 2022 the Buckeyes outscore Penn State in the second half 31-17, in 2021 16-14, in 2018 20-13, in 2017 22-10, and Penn State's last victory in 2016 came when they outscored the Buckeyes in the second half 17-9. In second halves this year the Buckeyes have scored 103 points, which is 47.6% of their total points scored this season. For Penn State they have scored 153 points in the second half which is 57.5% of their total points on the season.
Strength of schedule has also been a big topic of discussion between both of these teams this season as they've each only played one ranked opponent through their first six games of the season. For a quick comparison Ohio State's opponents have a combined record of 22-19 this season and Penn State's opponents have a combined record of 22-18. The Buckeyes schedule so far ranked as the 62nd most difficult and Penn State's schedule so far ranked as the 112th most difficult.
Ohio Stadium will be filled to the brim in a scarlett out this Saturday against Penn State hoping to give the Buckeyes energy out of the gates. However, neither team has had tremendous starts in any game this season with both teams scoring the majority of their points outside of the first quarter. This is likely to continue with the two young quarterbacks looking to their defense and running backs to set the tone of this game early on. The last few weeks have proved tough for the Buckeyes defense on the first drive of a half. I expect similar issues before they can settle in fully. Penn State leads after the first quarter 7-0.
Quarter two has been one of the best quarters for Buckeye football this season. The defense is usually operating in high gear and the offense has established a rhythm. That seems unlikely to change at this point in the season. Penn State gets a field goal, but the Buckeyes find the endzone twice. 14-10 Buckeyes lead going into the half.
Penn State has put up incredible numbers in second halves this season and have shown no problems keeping the rhythm from the first half going after the break. For the Buckeyes that hasn't always been the case as they have had third quarter letdowns on both sides of the ball. Give the Nittany Lions another two touchdowns and the Buckeyes a field goal here to make the score 24-17 going into the final quarter.
Everyone has a feeling with this game that it could very well come down to the last play of the game. If that is the case, Ohio State has the experience this year to do so. Penn State has yet to play a competitive game in the fourth quarter this season and so we have no idea what they may look like at this point in the game. One thing that we do know about Kyle McCord and the Buckeyes this season is that when the pressure is one they have performed at their very best. After the dust settles in this game there will be one less undefeated team in the nation and a handful of touchdowns and field goals will settle this one.
Score Prediction: 31-27 OSU defeats PSU
As mentioned previously in this article, second halves typically decide who wins this game. That is what I have here with my prediction with the Buckeyes grabbing 21 points in the second half the just 13 for Penn State. There are quite a few question marks for this game on both sides. No one knows yet how Penn State will perform in the second half of a close game as it has yet to happen. Ohio State still does not have an update on the injuries to Emeka Egbuka and TreVeyon Henderson which is a huge difference maker on how this game goes. There are a lot of factors at play going into this Saturday's top-ten matchup in Columbus and I don't think this game will have a clear winner until the dust settles and the clock reads 00:00.
Betting Line: OSU -4.5 | O/U 46.5
So far this season I have been correct on 6/10 spreads and over under bets. Much like the Buckeyes this season, hopefully I can improve on that this weekend and beyond. There's a pretty good chance that this game is close and there's also a legitimate chance Penn State wins this football game. I don't expect the Buckeyes to have a superhuman performance and go and win this game by more than a touchdown. Take Penn State to cover the spread in this game. A one score game is the most likely outcome in this matchup and previous years have shown that a four point differential is not unlikely. Once again I like the over in this game. Both teams have great defense, but based on the way these games have gone in the past they are typically high scoring even with great defense.
How to Watch & Listen:
TV: FOX (Big Noon Kickoff) 12:00 p.m. ET
- Gus Johnson (Play-by-Play), Joel Klatt (Commentary), Jenny Taft (Sideline)
Radio: WBNS-FM/AM (97.1/1460)
- Paul Keels (Play-by-Play), Jim Lachey (Analysis), Matt Andrews (Sideline)