Penn State Nittany Lions at (1) Ohio State Buckeyes (-17, 48 o/u)
After a season-opening loss to Temple, the sky seemed to be falling at University Park. But now the Penn State Nittany Lions (5-1, 2-0 Big Ten) have reeled off five straight wins and will head into their Primetime matchup with the no. 1 Ohio State Buckeyes (6-0, 2-0 Big Ten) a confident group. The Nittanies and Buckeyes will square off this Saturday at Ohio Stadium in Columbus (8:00 PM Eastern).
Penn State had arguably its best win of the season last weekend, stomping on the Indiana Hoosiers, 29-7, covering as four-point favorites. That came one week after the Hoosiers gave Ohio State all it could handle the week before.
The Nittanies’ offense had gotten some solid performances from both the passing game and the running game through the first five weeks, but not in the same outing. Everything came together last weekend, with QB Christian Hackenberg completing 21 of 39 passes for 262 yards, two touchdowns, and zero interceptions and the running game chipping in with 154 yards on 32 attempts. Penn State outgained the Hoosiers 420 to 234 total yards.
The strong performance from the ground game was all the more impressive with starting RBs Saquon Barkley and Akeel Lynch on the shelf. Nick Scott (57 yards on eight carries) and Mark Allen (45 yards on eight carries) shared the load.
“Whoever gets hot is hot,” said Scott. “When he [Allen] gets out on the field, I’m rooting him on, I’m hoping he makes big plays and then I understand when I go out there I’ve got to take advantage of my opportunities.”
Ohio State remains the number one team in the nation after beating Maryland, 49-28, last weekend, improving to 6-0 on the year. Betting the Buckeyes has been anything but safe, though; they are 1-5 against the spread, only covering in their first game against Virginia Tech.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott continued his strong season with 102 yards and two scores against the Terrapins, while the team’s QB play – which had been sub-par the past few weeks – was much improved. Cardale Jones completed 21 of 28 passes for 291 yards and two touchdowns while JT Barrett – who spelled Jones in the red zone – carried the ball 12 times for 62 yards and three scores.
“It was great,” Jones said of the dual-quarterback approach. “It was all in the coach’s plan to win. He felt like JT would be an extra element to the game down in the red zone, and certain things we wanted to do in the running game and he proved to be right once again.”
Penn State has a strong defense, allowing just 14.3 PPG (11th in the nation). But they’ll be in tough to keep the Buckeyes out of the end zone. Despite the up-and-down play of both Jones and Barrett this season, Ohio State is still putting up 460 yards and 36.8 points per game.
Ohio State is 8-2 straight up and against the spread in its last ten home games against Penn State. But, as mentioned, they team is just 1-5 ATS on the year and 0-4 ATS in their last four at home. The Nittanies are 3-3 ATS on the year and have covered two of the last three. Taking the points looks like the play this weekend.
Pick: Penn State +17.
(Photo credit: Adam Glanzman (Flickr: asg.fbc.vsOSU.11.30.131077 copy) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)