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What you need to know: No. 2 Penn State at No. 6 Ohio State
UNIVERSITY PARK — Each week, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions on fall Saturdays this season.
Game details: at Ohio State, 3:30 p.m., broadcast on FOX.
Records: No. 2 Penn State (7-0, 4-0 Big Ten) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0 Big Ten)
Venue: Ohio Stadium, capacity 104,944.
Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): Cloudy with a chance of showers. High of 52 and will drop throughout the late afternoon and evening hours.
Overview: This might be the most important factor to consider this week (and next): Penn State can lose to either Ohio State or Michigan State and still make the Big Ten title game. All three teams enter the weekend with 4-0 conference records, and both the Buckeyes and the Spartans have losable games ahead (including playing one another). Since losing to Oklahoma in Week 2, Ohio State has steamrolled five straight opponents and has scored 50-plus points in four consecutive games. Penn State’s been the class of the Big Ten for virtually the entire season, beating overmatched opponents. Saturday will be the first (and only) time that Penn State will be an underdog this season. That’s probably a role the Lions will embrace, but it also means they’re squaring off against the most talented team they’ll face in the regular season.
The line: Penn State + 6.5.
All-time series: Ohio State leads 18-14, starting in 1912.
Last time they met (2016): Penn State’s 24-21 upset at Beaver Stadium catapulted the Lions onto winning the Big Ten championship.
Penn State wins if: the Nittany Lions can contain J.T. Barrett. The Buckeye quarterback is a Heisman Trophy candidate and one of the most mobile and explosive players in college football. Penn State recorded seven sacks last week against backup John O’Korn (a Huntingdon, Pa. native), so the Lions will face a much more difficult challenge Saturday.
Ohio State wins if: the Buckeyes hold Penn State to less than 30 points. The Lions haven’t hit that mark against the Buckeyes since 1997, a 31-27 home win for Penn State.
Count on: Ohio State showing something new, just like Penn State did Saturday. Coming off a bye and facing their biggest game of the season, the Lions had Saquon Barkley take a direct snap on the first drive, and the standout promptly ripped off a long touchdown. Now, the Buckeyes are coming off a bye and facing their biggest game of the season. With a mobile quarterback and some extra time to prepare, the Buckeyes have options and opportunity Saturday to showcase Barrett in new ways.
Keep an eye on: your television sets. ESPN’s College Game Day will broadcast live from Columbus, and BTN will also air its tailgate show from the Ohio State campus. And with FOX calling the game, that’s three national networks who’ll have extensive onsite coverage. So if you can’t make it to the game, you should still get your fill of Penn State football all day long.
Trivia tidbit: Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State hasn’t defeated Ohio State in consecutive games, a streak they can break Saturday with a win.
Saquon Barkley record watch: Barkley’s now third all-time at Penn State with 3,329 career rushing yards. Curt Warner is next on the list with 3,398 yards.
*Season record: 7-0.
*Season record against the spread: 4-3.
Prediction: Ohio State 31, Penn State 27.
*HappyValley season predictions
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