Penn State vs. Ohio State Prediction, Pick Against the Spread, and Latest Odds
Spread: Ohio State -17
Game time: Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET, ABC
Where to Watch: ABC
Penn State vs. Ohio State Prediction
For a lot of this season, it looked like Saturday night’s Penn State-Ohio State game in Columbus would be the game of the year in the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions were ranked in the top four just over two weeks ago, unbeaten heading into a game at Iowa. Even when they lost that game after an injury to quarterback Sean Clifford, they were positioned to make noise in the Big Ten East. They controlled their own destiny and looked like at least a decent threat to Ohio State, as well as the division’s lesser powers like Michigan and Michigan State.
The air is pretty much out of that balloon now, though. Penn State’s record-setting nine-overtime loss to a lowly Illinois program at home in Week 8 has taken a lot of shine off what remains a primetime game. But the biggest reason to fade the Nittany Lions this week isn’t that they now have an ugly loss on their resume. It’s that their QB doesn’t look like he’s operating at full capacity, and they’re facing a white-hot team playing as well as anyone in college football.
The Buckeyes are the new No. 1 team in SP+, according to ESPN, and it looks like they have the best offense in the sport by a comfortable margin. They just completed a tour of the East’s typical doormats (Rutgers, Maryland, and Indiana) and treated them even more harshly than normal. Five-star redshirt freshman C.J. Stroud has been pretty good for most of the season, but he’s been downright absurd over the last month, playing at a higher level than any of his QB peers. Running back TreVeyon Henderson is averaging nearly 9 yards per carry and could be en route to one of the most explosive tailback seasons in modern history. Receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson remain the best pass-catching duo around, and the offensive line has given Stroud ample time to deliver them the ball. There’s nothing not to like here, and though Penn State has a tremendous defense, Ohio State is so overwhelming that it will score plenty.
I don’t know where Penn State is going to find offense, though. Clifford was hurt badly enough two weeks ago at Iowa that he had to leave that game between top-four teams, and was a reduced version of himself in his return against Illinois. (You can probably glean that from Penn State finishing with 18 points in a nine-overtime game.) It was by far his worst game of the season, as he dropped back 38 times and produced less than four yards per dropback. He took four sacks and looked unable to push the ball down the field.
That just isn’t going to work in the Horseshoe, unfortunately. Ohio State’s defense was bad for the season’s first two weeks, but since a loss to Oregon led Ryan Day to strip play-calling duties from coordinator Kerry Coombs, the defense has been dominant. On the one hand, that dominance has come against the likes of Akron, Maryland, Rutgers, and Indiana. But on the other hand, Penn State’s offense with an injured Clifford is not worlds better than those units. Given that Ohio State is going to score well into the 30s and Clifford is going to have to stand back and make throws to stay in the game, he’s going to have a deeply unpleasant time.
The biggest danger to an Ohio State cover, in my view, is that Penn State comes through the back door after OSU builds a massive lead and begins pulling starters. The risk of that happening isn’t big enough for me to like any player other than the home team, though. I like Ohio State at anything up to -18 or so and think they’re worth jumping on enthusiastically at two touchdowns and a field goal.