For the Penn State Nittany Lions, their entire season comes down to a Saturday showdown with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

That’s the beautiful thing about college football, it usually comes down to a game or two that determines if you have a great season, a good one, or for some teams, a bad one.

A win at the Horseshoe would certainly make for a great Penn State football season and would almost definitely catapult them into the top 5 of the college football playoff rankings. A loss and all hope at winning a Big Ten Championship or National Championship are over.

So, the stage is set, and Penn State knows what they have to do. According to the bookmakers in Vegas though, Penn State doesn’t have a chance. Currently, the No. 8 team in the county is an 18 point underdog to the formidable Buckeyes.

Sure, Ohio State has the best defensive player in the country in defensive end Chase Young and in my opinion the best offensive player in the country in Justin Fields, but there are some reasons to be optimistic if you’re a Penn State fan.

Four Quarter Game

Ohio State has beaten the hell out of every team they have played so far this season, but their two most difficult games of the year are on the horizon. Penn State and then a season finale with Michigan.

Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins was asked if there was any concern about having to play complete four-quarter games against Penn State and Michigan. Dobbins quipped “Why do they need to be four-quarter games?”

That’s beautiful bulletin board material, but there could be some truth to it.

Ohio State has eviscerated Big Ten competition. They’ve beaten Indiana by 41, Nebraska by 41, Michigan State by 24 and Wisconsin by 31 in games that, in theory, should’ve been tough. They also handed Cincinnati their only loss of the season in a 42-0 drubbing.

Fields has accounted for 41 total touchdowns this season, while Dobbins has rushed for 1,289 yards at a 7 yards per carry clip. Freshman backup running back Master Teague III has 744 yards on just 114 carries. They also have three tremendous receivers in K.J. Hill, Chris Olave and Binjimen Victor.

Many of these names have flown under the radar outside of the Big Ten, mostly because Ohio State hasn’t played in any interesting or competitive games yet. LSU is a fine team, but Ohio State is the best team in the country.

Now, back to those reasons to be optimistic if you’re a Penn State fan.

First and foremost, it looks like Penn State will have their best running back, Noah Cain, back. After missing the previous two games due to injury, Cain will be needed to pick up first downs and keep drives alive. The Penn State offense must sustain drives and keep Ohio States defense on the field to have any chance at all in this game.

Much of the talk this week has been about Michigan, and I hope that continues. The Wolverines have been great since halftime of the Penn State game and plenty of attention is being paid to the Buckeyes matchup in Ann Arbor on November 30. It’s possible Saturday could be trap game for Ohio State. With a rookie coach in Ryan Day, there’s the potential that the team begins to look ahead to Michigan.

Still, they may just have enough talent to beat Penn State even if they are looking ahead.

The series has been extremely close between Ohio State and Penn State the past three years. Everyone remembers the Marcus Allen blocked a field goal and Grant Haley scoop-and-score that lead to a monster upset in Happy Valley in 2016, and it’s hard to forget the two crushing one-point defeats Penn State endured in ’17 and ’18.

The point is, James Franklin’s teams have played Ohio State close in recent history, and despite Ohio States’ dominant play, Penn State is still a very good team and there’s no reason this matchup can’t be close as well.

Having Cain back is key, but Penn State needs to get back on track on defense. The secondary has been atrocious and the defensive line has been no help as they have been unable to generate any pressure on opposing quarterbacks. This lead to the loss at Minnesota and the near loss to Indiana.

The Horseshoe will present a prime spot for Micah Parsons to have a signature game as a Nittany Lion. The sophomore linebacker has been great all season, but it feels like he’s still building to a monster game. This could be it.

Of course, with most football games, it comes down to the quarterback. It has been a very emotional few weeks for quarterback Sean Clifford, and if he can channel that into a productive game Penn State may shock the world. Clifford will need to be incredibly fast with his decision making, and as accurate as he’s ever been because there will be a real-life monster coming off the edge, ready to turn Saturday into a nightmare for Clifford and Penn State.


The stage is set and the biggest game of the season is here.

Prediction

Ohio State 35 Penn State 24


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