No. 21 Penn State Nittany Lions (8-2 SU, 2-7-1 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (6-4 SU, 5-5 ATS), 3:30 p.m. EST, Week 12 NCAA Football, Saturday, November 19, 2011, Ohio Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, TV: ESPN/ABC
by Badger, College Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread: Penn St. +7/Ohio St. -7
Over/Under Total: 39.5
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After the hardest week ever in the history of the program the 21st-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions will try and get things turned back into a positive direction when they travel to the Horseshoe of Ohio Stadium to take on the Ohio State Buckeyes in Big Ten Conference action Saturday.
Last week was hell for the Nittany Lions.
Putting aside the 24-hour media scrutiny focused on campus due to the sex abuse scandal, the loss of their iconic head coach Joe Paterno, the loss of assistant coach Mike McQueary and all of the turmoil that has descended on State College and the football program in general the Nittany Lions also lost for the first time in the Leaders Division of the Big Ten.
Penn State put forth a great effort in their, 17-14, loss at home to Nebraska, they just couldnt overcome a slow start and had little left in the tank after an emotional rollercoaster of a week.
Now Penn State will have to show how resilient they are and try to rebound in short order to keep their Big Ten Championship dreams alive, and theyll have to do it in one of the hardest places to play in all of college football when they travel to the Horseshoe to take on the Buckeyes.
Ohio State is also coming off of a huge disappointment of a game in their loss on the road at Purdue last Saturday, 26-23, in overtime. Just when it appeared the Buckeyes had turned their season around with a three-game winning streak and a signature win over Wisconsin in late October, the Buckeyes went on the road and were outplayed by the Boilermakers.
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Ohio State needed a touchdown pass from quarterback Braxton Miller to Jordan Hall in the final minute of regulation just to get into overtime, but in overtime their lack of offensive execution all day came back (only 15 first downs, 6-of-16 on 3rd down) to haunt them when they could only muster a 33-yard field goal by Drew Basil with their possession in overtime. Purdue cashed in on their following OT possession with a Robert Marve touchdown plunge to complete the upset and give the Buckeyes their fourth loss of the season.
But now the Buckeyes are back at home where they are a completely different team (5-1 this season) and looking to hand Penn State a second consecutive loss and play the role of the spoiler to the Nittany Lions title hopes.
With the combination of Penn State reeling and the Buckeyes back at home in the Shoe, the oddsmakers out in Las Vegas opened the Saturday Big Ten battle with Ohio State as 7-point favorites. That number has held all week, with very little line movement in either direction.
The over/under total opened at 39.5 by mid-week and has yet to move in either direction as well.
The total opened so low because both of these teams are limited offensively, and both are much stronger on defense when handicapping the two units.
Ohio State made the switch to freshman Braxton Miller at quarterback many weeks ago, but in doing so theyve made themselves more or less one-dimensional on offense. Miller is a dynamic runner, but his skills at reading coverages and going through receiver progressions in the passing game is still a major work in progress. As a result the Buckeyes are a great running team (200.2 ypg 27th), but when teams stack the box they can struggle to score (i.e. Purdue last week).
This week will be a big test for the Buckeyes offense too, since Penn State is a top-10 defense in multiple categories. Their weakness is in run defense (119.5 ypg 28th), but because their strength is in their secondary (167 ypg 5th), you can expect them to play man-to-man on the outside to dedicate an extra player up front to stop the Buckeyes from running.
Penn States offense is limited more by skill and scheme then by anything else. Although hes a steady player, quarterback Matt McGloin (1,386 yards, 54 %, 7 TD) is not a game-breaker as a signal caller. The Nittany Lions rely on their running game of Silas Redd and Stephfon Green (162 ypg 59th), but because the Lions are run-heavy they often fall into the one-dimensional mold against good defenses too. Redd is listed on the injury report (undisclosed probable), so it may be more Green than Redd on Saturday.
Ohio State would qualify as a good defense, although its not as tough as years past. The Buckeyes will give up some yardage at times, both in the passing game (197 ypg 28th) and the running game (119 ypg 27), but when push comes to shove they do tighten and keep teams out of the end zone (18.9 ppg 16th).
Not only does Penn State have all of the off the field issues to deal with these days, but they also have to deal with the fact that Ohio State has had their number in recent years. Ohio State has won two straight games in the head-to-head series, including last years 38-14 victory in the Shoe, and four of the last five games overall. If you want to take it out a few more recruiting classes, the Buckeyes have won seven of the last nine games going back to 2002, so its safe to say the Buckeyes hold an advantage in the series mentally.
The advantage is almost as strong at the betting window, with Ohio State going 2-0 ATS in the last two, 4-1 ATS in the last five and 6-4 ATS in the last 10.
Home field has been a big advantage in the Penn State-Ohio State series. The Buckeyes are 4-1 ATS in the last five games played in Ohio Stadium and the home team in general is 10-3 ATS if you go back through the last 13 meetings overall.
Most of the other betting trends favor Ohio State too. Penn State is a lousy 3-13 ATS in their last 16 games as a road underdog, and 1-8-1 ATS versus a team with a winning record. Meanwhile, Ohio State is 17-4 ATS in their last 21 home games and 16-5 ATS as a home favorite.
The under also has some great betting trends to follow. The under is 4-1 in the last five head-to-head meetings at Ohio Stadium, and 5-2 in the last seven overall. The under is also 5-1-1 in the Nittany Lions last seven Big Ten games, and 8-1-1 in the last 10 games overall.
Badgers Pick to Cover the Point Spread: The Buckeyes burned me bad last week. I thought they had turned the corner, then they laid a big turd at Purdue so Im a little gun shy backing them in this spot even though I think they will win and cover. Most of the trends say under, but Im going to buck the trend here because I think both teams will get a few breaks on offense this week. It a gut call. Im betting the over of 39.5.
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