Penn State Nittany Lions (4-2 SU, 3-3 ATS) vs. Ohio State Buckeyes (7-0 SU, 4-2-1 ATS)
College Football Week 9
Date and Time:Saturday, October 26th, 8pm ET
by Evergreen, Football Handicapper, Predictem.com
Point Spread:PSU +14.5/OSU -14.5
With the BCS Standings making their first appearance, it is time for teams to start making their cases to move up those rankings by notching important mid-season wins. Most every game is in conference at this point so teams with traditional rivalries often square off to jockey for the pole position for conference championship games or the best bowl bids. Penn State is still under a post-season ban but that won’t be a factor as they travel to Ohio State this Saturday and attempt to end the Buckeyes undefeated season. Ohio State has been living dangerously for the past few weeks in winning by slim margins and they have trailed at points in the last two contests so maybe the nations’s longest win streak is about to end.
Vegas opened this game with Ohio State as 14.5 point favorites and that line has seen very little motion across the online betting sites. Penn State has been hurt with scholarship sanctions and the full affect of that remains to be seen but the Nittany Lions have not seen those limitations impede their competitiveness and have racked up 12 wins against the spread in their last 17 games. The favorite has five ATS wins in the seven meetings between the two schools with the road team dropping just one ATS decision in the last six tilts.
Christian Hackenberg has given the PSU fans reason to cheer as the young signal caller is playing well beyond his years in throwing for 1,672 yards and 11 touchdowns. He and WR Allen Robinson make up one of the most dynamic pass/catch duos in the Big Ten and the Lions enter the week 26th in the nation at 283 passing yards per game. PSU is averaging a respectable 33.3 points per game, enough to make the Ohio State defense bring their A game. After a loss to Indiana, Penn State was trending in the wrong direction but 44-40, four overtime win against Michigan gave PSU it’s mojo back as they take on the 4th ranked Buckeyes.
Ohio State seems to be on cruise control and have looked prepared in wins against Wisconsin, Northwestern and Iowa. The Buckeyes have stuffed the run against everyone and currently rank 7th in rush defense, allowing less than a hundred per game. That solid defensive play has let the offense play comfortable and often from ahead and Ohio State is 7th in the country at 45 points per game. OSU possesses a very unique statistical balance as Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde are separated by just one carry and five rushing yards. WRs Phiily Brown and Devin Smith both have six touchdowns with Brown having just three more catches and nine more yards than Smith. That kind of balance has to give opposing D coordinators fits, and we haven’t even mentioned the skills of Braxton Miller.
Both defensive units are good and certainly underrated. Neither allow more than 335 total yards per game so this one has slug fest written all over it if the offenses slip up a bit. Penn State is a bit better at defensing the pass with OSU controlling the ground but the separation in both categories are by pretty irrelevant yardage totals. Penn State gives up 23.7 points per game to Ohio State’s 19.9 so this one might bring up reminders of Big Ten games from the late 80’s if the defenses do control the day.
Outside of the Ohio State/Michigan game, this matchup is likely the biggest Big Ten game outside the B1G Championship game so expect a full out effort from both squads. Penn State has the ability to control the line of scrimmage with Zwinak, Belton and Lynch carrying the mail and should use the run game early to get Hackenberg acclimated to the Horseshoe. If Ohio State can dominate defensively, that puts all the pressure on the young quarterback and I don’t see a way for the Nittany Lions to pull an upset without a very solid run game. As I mentioned, OSU’s balance on offense will pay off at some point and they will get points on the board even if Penn State manages a strong defensive gameplan.
Ohio State has scored 31, 40 and 34 points in their three conference wins and it seems that they would be a good bet for another 30-34 point output. That makes Penn State get a solid 20 to cover here and that seems very doable. The Shoe is big but it is not the loudest or most intimidating Big Ten stadium so look for Hackenberg to have enough success to put up solid yards and points. This one should ultimately be another W in Ohio State’s column but Penn State keeps this plenty close to take the Nittany Lions and the points. The Wisconsin and Iowa games proved that Ohio State is not immune to getting tight in close contests and they can’t pull away enough to cover this one either. Ohio State 35 Penn State 23
Evergreen’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread:PENN STATE.
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