What you need to know: Penn State vs. 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: vs. Ohio State, 7:30 p.m. kickoff, broadcast on ABC.
Records: No. 9 Penn State 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten; No. 4 Ohio State 4-0, 1-0 Big Ten.
Last week: Penn State dispatched Illinois 63-14, while Ohio State beat Tulane 49-6.
Venue: Beaver Stadium, where Penn State has won 16 consecutive games.
Weather forecast (via AccuWeather): high of 66 degrees, with a mix of clouds and sun.
Overview: Get ready for the season’s best atmosphere — the annual White Out contest. Once again, it’s when Ohio State comes to Happy Valley, with a battle of Top 10 teams set for Saturday’s biggest stage in college football. ESPN’s College Game will broadcast live from campus on Old Main lawn, just like last year. Several segments were aired from there, including the three-hour Game Day broadcast Saturday morning, set against a beautiful backdrop. Students and fans engulfed the stage, with many arriving early, accompanied by clever signs. One noteworthy aspect is that Kirk Herbstreit stated last year that he believes that Game Day tradition — holding up signs — originated at Penn State. Now, for the game. Both teams are undefeated, though it’s probably fair to say that Penn State has more questions than answers, and also fair to point to Ohio State as the better team thus far. For fans, that should be fine. The best team doesn’t always win, and certainly not at Beaver Stadium during a White Out.
The line: Penn State +3.5.
All-time series: Ohio State leads 19-14.
Last time they met (2017): Ohio State recorded a fourth-quarter comeback to win 39-38 in Columbus.
Throwback classic (2016): Penn State won 24-21, upsetting the second-ranked Buckeyes and catapulting the team onto an incredible run that’s ongoing. The Nittany Lions are 26-3 in their last 29 games, with all three losses by a combined seven points against ranked teams.
Penn State wins if: Trace McSorley features prominently in the running game, especially early. James Franklin has said numerous times that the offense is better when McSorley does just that — keep defenses off-balance with positive rushing attempts, particularly early in the contest. He ran for 49 yards and a touchdown last season in Columbus, and if he can double those numbers on Saturday, Penn State’s chances of winning increase significantly.
Ohio State wins if: the Buckeyes can adapt to Nick Bosa’s absence and continually pressure McSorley. Bosa, a defensive end and arguably Ohio State’s best player, will miss the game after having surgery due to a core muscle injury. Ohio State hasn’t had difficultly limiting its first four opponents, due largely to the Buckeyes’ depth created by top-ranked recruiting classes, so they have a better chance than most teams to overcome that type of loss.
Count on: a great vibe all day long. Head out early to Old Main campus to watch ESPN’s College Game Day broadcast, visit your favorite place downtown to grab lunch, or get to your tailgate location early. There are plenty of great pre-game choices in Happy Valley, which will once again have the opportunity to show the country why there’s no better atmosphere than game day at Penn State.
Keep an eye on: Penn State’s returners. KJ Hamler (kickoffs) and DeAndre Thompkins (punts) can shift the momentum of the game on just one play, which they’ve already done a handful of times this season.
Trivia tidbit: Saturday will be the ninth all-time matchup between Penn State and Ohio State with both teams ranked in the AP Top 10.
Prediction: Penn State 38, Ohio State 34
*Season record: 4-0
*Season record against the spread: 2-2.
*HappyValley.com season records