Penn State Nittany Lions vs. Ohio State Buckeyes Pick 11/23/19
Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1 SU, 5-5 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (10-0 SU, 8-2 ATS)
NCAA Football Week 13
Date and Time:Saturday, Nov, 23 at 12pm ET
Point Spread:PSU +18.5/OSU -18.5 (BetNow)
The College Football Playoff is officially limited to four teams but the last few weeks of the regular season serve up some informal quarter-final style matchups and the best example of that this week has Penn State taking on Ohio State in Columbus. The winner here is almost certainly winning the Big Ten East and heading to the conference championship game with a potential CFP berth up for grabs. It is hard to overstate the importance of what is on the line as even a one-loss Ohio State team would have a tough time getting into the playoffs without a Big Ten title. The Buckeyes have won eight of the last ten meetings between these programs, but the 2017 and 2018 contests were decided by exactly one point. Penn State has a 5-5 ATS record over that stretch, and they will be underdogs for the first time in 2019.
Big Injuries Issues for PSU
KJ Hamler and Noah Cain have been two of the best playmakers for Penn State this season, but both are dealing with injuries. Hamler leads the team with eight touchdown receptions and accounted for nearly 200 all-purpose yards against OSU last season but left last week’s game what has been called an upper-body injury. Head Coach James Franklin has mentioned Hamler’s status is in the hands of the doctors, so it seems like a concussion is in play, but the latest reports have the wide receiver on track to suit up Saturday. Noah Cain has emerged to lead the Lions at 5.1 yards per carry with six rushing scores but has missed the last two weeks with a leg issue. Journey Brown has filled in well in Cain’s absence, rushing for 300 yards and three scores in relief. Having all hands on deck will be important against Ohio State, so it is good news that Cain is also on track to see the field this weekend. The reports were that he could have played last week and should be near 100% with a full practice behind him. Sean Clifford is 2nd in the Big Ten in passing, but Hamler is by far the best of his receivers with TE Pat Freiermuth (34/424/7) second on the team in most categories. Clifford has gotten it done with his legs as well, rushing for 374 yards and five scores while throwing for 22 touchdowns.
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There is no reasonable plan-of-attack when facing Ohio State. They lead the nation in points per game (51.5) and in points allowed (9.8) while consistently outperforming even lofty Vegas expectations. Their 8-2 ATS record is tied for the best mark in 2019, and the latest ATS loss came in a 56-21 win against a Rutgers team getting a Big Ten record 52 points. Ohio State has faced four teams (WIS, IND, NEB, MSU) where they were favored in the 14-to-20 point range as they are this week, and they covered in every game while beating the spread by an average of 17.5 points. OSU has been without DE Chase Young for two weeks, but he returns just in time for the biggest game of the season. Young leads the conference with 13.5 sacks and also leads the Big Ten with 1.9 tackles for loss per game. Ohio State might be the best team in the land, and they are back to full strength.
The Buckeye Cupboard is Full
There is no shortage of ways OSU can get points on the board. Justin Fields is completing 70% of his passes and enters the week with 31 passing touchdowns with an additional ten rushing scores. Four different Buckeyes have at least four receiving touchdowns with Chris Olave and Binjimin Victor teaming up for 15. OSU averages 288 rushing yards per game with J.K. Dobbins 2nd in the conference in scoring and scrimmage yards behind only Wisconsin’s Jonathan Taylor. Master Teague has an outside chance at 1,000 yards on the season as Dobbins’ back-up and has hit at least 60 rushing yards in seven of ten contests this year. Penn State is 7th in scoring defense (13.5 ppg), but they are allowing 240 passing yards per game, and Ohio State has not scored fewer than 34 points in any game. Perhaps most impressive of all the monster OSU stats is their 58.5% conversion rate on third down. Penn State loses the time of possession battle on average already, and that will likely be the case again.
The home team is 5-1 against the spread in the last six between these teams, and Penn State has just three ATS wins in the last twelve trips to Columbus. Ohio State has nine straight ATS wins against an opponent above .500 and had an eight-game ATS winning streak inside the conference snapped last week. The early betting has been on Penn Stateside with nearly 58% of the action coming in on the Lions, and the Over is getting about 60% of bets through mid-week.
I will not be one of bettors taking PSU and the points this week as I feel OSU is just too talented and too deep to not perform at home. I don’t think the upcoming Michigan game is a distraction with Penn State being a more direct threat to the Buckeyes for the majority of this season, so this isn’t even a trap game scenario. The Football Power Index metrics give Ohio State an 80% chance of winning this game, which is rather impressive considering they are facing the 9th ranked team in the land. Compare that with Minnesota sitting at 85% against a two-win Northwestern squad. I think the Buckeyes can get at least 18.5 points clear by the end of things behind typical production from Fields and Dobbins. Having Chase Young back is a huge boost for a team that really doesn’t need a shot in the arm, and he will be on a mission to retake the NCAA lead in sacks. Penn State is a very good team, but they are just a bit short on playmakers to really stress out the best defense in the land, and Ohio State gets a 41-20 win.
Ted’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread:Ohio State