Penn State Nittany Lions vs. #2 Ohio State Buckeyes
The Records: Penn State (4-2, 2-1 Big Ten); Ohio State (6-0, 3-0 Big Ten).
The Head Coaches: Penn State: James Franklin, third season, 42-29 overall, 18-14 at Penn State; Ohio State: Urban Meyer, 56-4 record while head coach at Ohio State, 160-27 overall.
The Game: Penn State returns to the field following its bye week with a primetime matchup against conference-rival Ohio State at Beaver Stadium on Saturday night.
And for the fourth time against Ohio State, Beaver Stadium will be in a “white-out,” meaning all 107,000-plus fans will be decked out in white to support the Nittany Lions, an occurrence that doesn’t go unnoticed by Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer.
“I wish they saved the white outs for other games,” Meyere said. “But I guess they used it for our game. It’s one of the top five atmospheres, again, in college football.”
The last time these two programs squared off in Happy Valley, it took two overtimes to decide a winner before the Buckeyes ultimately prevailed.
Meyer and his undefeated Ohio State squad enter Saturday night’s game sitting second in the nation in the AP poll. The Buckeyes steamrolled their way through the first five games of the schedule before #10 Wisconsin took them to overtime last Saturday.
Ohio State is bolstered by a running attack that averages 300 yards per game, compared to a Penn State rush defense that allows 208 yards per game. The Nittany Lions’ defense will benefit from the return of linebackers Brandon Bell and Jason Cabinda, who return to the field for the first time since being hurt in the early part of the season. That bodes well for a linebacker group that has struggled with injuries all season.
Penn State’s passing attack is averaging 239 yards per game, while the Ohio State passing attack, led by quarterback J.T. Barrett, is averaging 216 yards per game in a run-heavy offense.
Stopping the run and forcing Barrett to use his arm will be integral in the success of the Nittany Lions on Saturday night.
Running back Saquon Barkley torched Maryland’s defense for 204 yards when the Nittany Lions took the field two weeks ago. Leading to Barkley’s breakthrough game was a dominant performance up front for the Penn State offense, in what could be considered the group’s best game in three years. But Saturday, if the Nittany Lions want to have a shot at an improbable upset, they’ll have to do so without guard Andrew Nelson, who suffered a season-ending injury against the Terrapins.
Penn State hits the field against the Buckeyes following the Nittany Lions’ best performance of the season on both sides of the football after limiting Maryland, which came into the game averaging 300 yards on the ground, to only 170 yards on the ground. Stopping the second-ranked Buckeyes will be a daunting task for a Penn State defense that has struggled mightily at times when over-matched.
The Nittany Lions will have the benefit of a raucous crowd for the primetime match-up as “white-out” games provide some of the best atmospheres for college football games.
Time: 8 p.m. EDT
Location: Beaver Stadium. University Park, PA.
TV/Radio: ABC/Penn State Radio Network
Prugar’s Prediction: Ohio State, 48-24
Image credit: Paul Burdick