A crucial moment in Penn State’s rise toward the top of the college football landscape was its dramatic upset of Ohio State last season, and the host Buckeyes hope for some payback when the Big Ten powerhouses tangle Saturday in Columbus. A fourth-quarter rally capped by a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown lifted the Nittany Lions to a stunning victory in last year’s meeting, which sparked a closing push that led to Penn State’s Big Ten title.
The second-ranked Lions enter this matchup coming off an impressive 42-13 win over then-No. 15 Michigan and once again can carve out a path to the conference championship if they can take care of No. 6 Ohio State. “I don’t think there’s any doubt when you find a way as an organization to beat the No. 2 team in the country, I don’t care where you’re at in your program’s development, that win has a big impact from a lot of different perspectives,” Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters of last year’s triumph and the impact it had moving forward. The Buckeyes have been steamrolling opponents since their early loss to Oklahoma, winning five in a row by an average of 42 points, and they are coming off a bye week that should have them primed and ready for the challenge. Ohio State has produced at least 500 yards of offense in each of those five straight wins, the longest stretch in program history, and it enters the week tied for the FBS lead in scoring (47.3).
TV: 3:30 p.m. ET, FOX. LINE: Ohio State -6.5
ABOUT PENN STATE (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten): The usual suspects did their thing against the Wolverines as quarterback Trace McSorley threw for 282 yards and a touchdown while scoring three times on the ground, and running back Saquon Barkley had two rushing TDs to go along with a juggling reception for a third score. Ohio State’s top-rated offense will be tested by the nation’s No. 1 scoring defense (9.6), led by senior linebacker Jason Cabinda, who had 12 tackles, a half-sack and a forced fumble last week. Senior wideout DaeSean Hamilton has 17 catches for 272 yards and three TDs over the last three games and needs nine yards to move into third place on the school’s all-time list.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (6-1, 4-0): Senior J.T. Barrett ranks second to McSorley in the Big Ten in passing yards with 1,838 and he has 18 TD passes with no interceptions during the five-game run. “With a quarterback who has played as long as he has, he’s had several of them [to prove himself],” coach Urban Meyer said of Barrett, who has had very few but notable bad games in big situations. “I wouldn’t say this is the one, but this is obviously a very important one.” J.K. Dobbins leads the way on the ground with 775 yards and five TDs for the Big Ten’s top team in yards per carry (six).
1. Ohio State had won 11 of the previous 14 meetings prior to last year’s encounter.
2. McSorley completed just 8-of-23 passes against the Buckeyes last year, while Barrett was 28-of-43 for 245 yards and a TD.
3. Penn State K Tyler Davis has made 4-of-10 field goals over the last five games.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 27, Penn State 24