It's that time of year again when we pretend Penn State is a perennial powerhouse posing a palpable threat to Ohio State's postseason prospects.
Look, the Nittany Lions are a good football team, but let's actually put this in perspective: Penn State has beaten Ohio State just once in the past six tries and has as many double-digit losses over that span as one-score games, including a 63-14 bludgeoning.
The lone win? It came in a game where the Buckeyes actually out-gained the Nittany Lions 413 to 276 and lost on a blocked field goal returned for a touchdown, and they celebrated like it was the Super Bowl.
Keep that in mind as you keep hearing about how even this series has been lately, how close the previous two games have been, and how much of a threat Penn State is to Ohio State in the Big Ten.
Penn State is a fine football team, a fun conference opponent and puts together one hell of a game day atmosphere, but there's one king of the Big Ten, and a bunch of jacks who take their turns gunning for the throne. It was Bert at Wisconsin, then it was Dino Michigan State, now James Franklin and Penn State are up, and they'll fade just like the others.
But I'm not going to lie, I love it this way. I love that Penn State fans have an expectation to win and a real hope of a Big Ten Championship. It makes the inevitable so much more fun.
Penn State just flat out isn't prepared for what's coming on Saturday night, and no amount of white is going to be able to stop it.
Franklin's squad gave up 38 against Appy State and 24 against Illinois and are just praying things are going to be fine this week against a quarterback who Deshaun Watson thinks could play in the League tomorrow, two former 1,000-yard rushers, the biggest offensive line in school history and a veteran receiving corps led by the highest-graded receiver in the country.
If I didn't know what kind of sorcery went on during a white out in Happy Valley, I'd assume a blowout is imminent. As it is though, a 10-point win will suffice.
|TIME (ET)||MATCHUP||FAVORITE||TV CHANNEL|
|12:00||SYRACUSE @ #3 CLEMSON||CLEM (-25)||ABC|
|12:00||CENTRAL MICHIGAN @ MICHIGAN STATE||MSU (-29)||FS1|
|12:00||UL-LAFAYETTE @ ALABAMA||BAMA (-49)||SECN|
|12:00||#12 WEST VIRGINIA @ #25 TEXAS TECH||WVU -(3.5)||ESPN2|
|3:30||TENNESSEE @ #3 GEORGIA||UGA (-31)||CBS|
|3:30||PITTSBURGH @ #13 UCF||UCF (-13)||ESPNU|
|3:30||#18 TEXAS @ KANSAS STATE||TEX (-8)||FS1|
|3:30||PURDUE @ NEBRASKA||PUR (-3)||BTN|
|3:30||BAYLOR @ OKLAHOMA||OKLA (-23.5)||ABC|
|4:00||SOUTHERN MISS @ #10 AUBURN||AUB (-27)||SECN|
|4:30||#14 MICHIGAN @ NORTHWESTERN||MICH (-14)||FOX|
|6:00||FLORIDA @ MISSISSIPPI STATE||MISS ST. (-7)||ESPN|
|7:00||VIRGINIA TECH @ #22 DUKE||DUKE (-4.5)||ESPN2|
|7:00||IOWA STATE @ TCU||TCU (-10.5)||ESPNU|
|7:30||#7 STANFORD @ #8 NOTRE DAME||ND (-5)||NBC|
|7:30||SOUTH CAROLINA @ #17 KENTUCKY||USC (-1.5)||SECN|
|7:30||#4 OHIO STATE @ #9 PENN STATE||OSU (-3.5)||ABC|
|8:30||#20 BYU @ #11 WASHINGTON||WASH (-17)||FOX|
|9:15||OLE MISS @ #5 LSU||LSU (-10)||ESPN|
|10:30||#19 OREGON @ #24 CALIFORNIA||ORE (-2.5)||FS1|
Word of the Day: Conquer.
THAT 11W PREGAME FIX.
- Game Preview.
- Q&A With Penn State beat writer Ben Jones.
- 10 Reasons to hate.
- Game Poster.
- Game Trailer.
- High scoring game?
- Our picks against the spread.
- Instant classic potential.
DWAYNE'S OFFENSE. Big Brain thinking is that a mobile quarterback adds dynamics, variety and a numbers advantage an offense, making it hard to stop.
Galaxy Brain thinking is that an elite pocket passer actually adds even more variety to the offense because he can move the ball around the field in an instant, forcing the defense to defend every inch of the field at all times.
The latter is what the Buckeyes have in Dwayne Haskins.
From Pete Thamel of Yahoo! Sports:
But the prospect of Haskins, a redshirt sophomore, as a one-and-done starter has percolated in NFL circles. A big night on Saturday could continue to bubble up the hype. Yahoo Sports polled three of the college head coaches who’ve faced Haskins, and they all raved about him. Oregon State’s Jonathan Smith complimented his command of the offense, Rutgers’ Chris Ash noted his “confidence and poise.” In a phone interview this week, Tulane’s Willie Fritz called Haskins a “very, very poised and big NFL-looking type quarterback.”
What Fritz came away most impressed with was how many different things Ohio State could do with Haskins, as his talents stretched the Green Wave defense horizontally and vertically. “I watched a little bit of them from last season,” Frtiz said. “They didn’t seem as dynamic as they are this year with all the different things that they do.”
He then rattled off a host of different offensive packages – dropback passes, sprint-out passes, bootlegs, inside zone, stretch runs, power and quick game – that Haskins is running. They do it with a tempo that’s had them averaging five more snaps per game this season (80), as OSU ranks No. 15 nationally after finishing No. 37 last year.
“They spread it out, use all parts of the field horizontally and vertically,” Fritz said, comparing it to the offense Tulane sees Memphis run in the AAC. “They get fast guys the ball in space. It’s not an old-style offense in any way, shape and form.”
Urban Meyer's offense has been designed around the quarterback run for as long as time itself, but after watching Haskins run the offense, he's the perfect quarterback for a team full of elite athletes. He can make the ball teleport into the hands of the best athletes in the country. It's not even fair.
FOR EVERYTHING? There's a wide belief that this September matchup is essentially a college football elimination game. I don't necessarily buy that, but I'll say this: it's sure as hell more beneficial to win than lose.
From Andy Staples of SI.com:
Nobody is getting eliminated on Saturday, but the loser of one game could be in a more precarious position than the other.
The Big Ten’s dream scenario is Penn State beating Ohio State in a tight game followed by Penn State winning the Big Ten title and Ohio State buzzsawing its remaining opponents. That would be the playoff-era version of the 2011 LSU-Alabama scenario*. It’s a recipe for getting two teams into the playoff. But no matter who wins, the other team absolutely still has a shot as long as it keeps winning. It just will need some help—which probably would come from some gentlemen who wear winged helmets and have Big Ten title and playoff aspirations of their own.
The loser of this game could very well find its way into the College Football Playoff as a second Big Ten team – that could be true. But the Buckeyes better make damn sure it's Penn State that has to worry about finding out for sure.
We've done the jig with the committee a few too many times already, and the whole thing's starting to sour on me. I just want to go 13-0 and kick my feet up with no stress as a learn which team Ohio State's going to carpet bomb in the semifinal.
FIVE QUICK WINNERS. Last week should have been a complete disaster, but thanks to Ohio State's clutch two-minute drill while up 34 in the fourth quarter, and whatever the hell happened in Oregon, I was only 2-3. That puts me at 8-12 on the season, meaning I'm just one perfect week away from hitting .500.
Here is that perfect week:
Oklahoma State -17 against Kansas
Oklahoma State got blasted by Texas Tech last week, but Kansas is decidedly not Texas Tech. The Jayhawks have two wins in four games this season, which is a drastic improvement, but they also lost to Nicholls State, and two their wins came against Rutgers and Central Michigan, who have a combined 2-6 record with the wins coming against Texas State and Maine. I think Oklahoma State is far better than it looked last week, and I think Kansas is far worse than its record indicates. This is an easy pick for me.
UCF -13 against Pitt
This seems like a trap, but every time I've said that this season, I've won, so I'm going to ride it again. So far this season, Pitt has shown me absolutely nothing to convince me that this is going to be a close game at any point. The Panthers beat Georgia Tech by five and Albany by 26, not even managing to score in the second half. Aside from that, there's a 51-6 loss to Penn State and a three-point loss to a bad North Carolina team. This line feels too good to be true.
TCU -10.5 against Iowa State
Kind of like my Oklahoma State pick, I just think this is an overreaction to last week. TCU lost to Texas – which looks much improved since week one – a week after losing to Ohio State, and all of the sudden the spread is less than two touchdowns against Iowa State? I don't think TCU is as bad as people assume based on those two losses. It's still a Gary Patterson defense, and they still have an offense with some of the most explosive players in the country.
Michigan -14 against Northwestern
Michigan has lost one game this season against a top-10 team by a single touchdown. Since then, the fighting Jim Harbaughs are 3-0 with an average margin of victory at nearly 40 points. Meanwhile, Northwestern is 1-2 with a narrow win over Purdue and a loss to Akron and the Wildcats just lost their best offensive player to a medical retirement. Again, this just feels too easy, and it's probably a trap, but I'm going to spring it anyway.
Ohio State/Penn State Under 72 Total Points
I just think this number is too high. I've been saying it all week, but I'm not completely buying that this is going to be a high-scoring game. I understand both offenses are prolific, but I don't really think either defense is as bad as assumed, and I think both offenses will tighten up a bit in a close, extremely important game. The more I think about it, the more I see a 31-21 game, not a 42-32 game (which would still barely hit the over).
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