NCAAF Betting Preview: Ohio State vs Penn State Odds and Pick

A spot in the Big Ten Championship Game is on the line this weekend as the no. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions take on the no. 2 Ohio State Buckeyes. Kickoff is at high noon EST on Saturday, November 23 at Ohio Stadium in Columbus. The game will be televised nationally on Fox.

According to the Week 13 college football odds, the Buckeyes are favored by 18 points at home. There is also an over/under of 56.5 points.

Ohio State vs Penn State Vegas Game Preview & Betting Odds

Penn State’s hopes for an undefeated season came to an end against Minnesota a couple of weeks ago. But the Nittany Lions still have a chance to win the Big Ten for the second time in four years and maybe even make the College Football Playoff. James Franklin’s team survived a scare last week against Indiana and now faces their biggest game of the season. A win over Ohio State would give the Nittany Lions the Big Ten East Division crown and a place in the conference title game. A win in the Big Ten Championship Game might be enough to put them in the top-4. However, a loss and any hope for either will be lost.

Of course, the same is at stake for the Buckeyes in this game. Ohio State has cruised through their schedule this season, winning every game by at least 24 points. The CFP Committee appears to be high on the Buckeyes. However, Ohio State has to play both Penn State and Michigan in rivalry games over the final two weeks of the season. A loss in either game could be enough to knock them out of the top-4. More importantly, a loss to Penn State would keep the Buckeyes out of the Big Ten title game. However, a win this week would lock up a bid in the conference championship game regardless of what happens next week in Michigan.

The Buckeyes lead the all-time series between this Big Ten rivals 19-14. More importantly, Ohio State has won six of the last seven head-to-head meetings against the Nittany Lions. Penn State hasn’t won in Columbus since 2011. On the bright side, Penn State has only lost by a single point in each of the past two seasons with five of the last eight games in this series being decided by a touchdown or less.

Free College Football Against the Spread Pick: Ohio State -18.5

Believe me when I say that it’s not easy swallowing this many points in a high-profile game like this. If the Nittany Lions were playing at home, I might be more willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. But I honestly think that Ohio State is head and shoulders better than almost any other team in the country outside of perhaps LSU and Clemson. At home, I think the Buckeyes will steamroll Penn State and eventually pull away enough to cover the 18.5-point spread.

As mentioned, Ohio State has won every game this season by at least 24 points. Obviously, Penn State will be their toughest opponent of the season. But even formidable foes like Michigan State and Wisconsin didn’t stand a chance against the Buckeyes. Over 60 minutes, Ohio State has too much talent for the Nittany Lions to handle. Penn State has just enough flaws, albeit small ones, for the Buckeyes to expose.

One concern I have is PSU quarterback Sean Clifford. Overall, he’s had a strong season in his first year as a starter. However, his completion percentage for the year is under 60%, which doesn’t bode well against the best defense he’ll face all season. Clifford also threw three interceptions in the loss to Minnesota. Granted, Minnesota has a talented secondary, but the OSU secondary will be even better and the road environment will be even more difficult to handle. Finally, while Clifford has grown accustomed to making plays with his legs this season, the Ohio State front-7 has more than enough speed and athleticism to keep up with him and neutralize that as a threat.

It’s important to keep in mind that the Ohio State defense is conceding less than 10 points per game. While the OSU offense gets most of the attention, the defense has been just as important this season. The Buckeyes gave up garbage-time touchdowns to both Florida Atlantic and Rutgers, allowing both teams to score 21 points. Other than that, no team has scored more than 14 points against Ohio State, and even those were garbage-time points from Maryland.

In fairness, the Penn State defense has also proven to be one of the best in the country. The Nittany Lions concede less than 14 points per game and might be the best in the country at stopping the run. There’s at least a chance that they can force a low-scoring defensive slugfest. But I think Ohio State has too much offensive talent for PSU to handle. The backfield tandem of J.K. Dobbins and Master Teague is better than any Penn State has seen this year. More importantly, no team has come close to slowing down OSU quarterback Justin Fields and the passing game.

In the end, I’m not sure the Penn State defense can consistently get stops over four quarters, nor do I think Clifford can match Fields in a shootout. I expect the Nittany Lions to put up a good fight for at least a half. But I truly believe the Buckeyes are three touchdowns better than Penn State and will cover the spread.

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