2. Ohio State (7-0) at 13. Penn State (6-1)
When: 12:00 p.m., Saturday, October 29
Where: Beaver Stadium, State College, PA
Radio: See Penn State Radio Network
Follow Along: Nittany Nation Twitter Feed
Three things to watch…
It’s best on best as Ohio State’s receivers meet Penn State’s secondary, and grab your popcorn this could be a good one. Penn State’s corners are flashy, flapping bird wings in their “no fly zone” and they back it up. Joey Porter Jr. is a future first round pick, Kalen King is one of the highest graded corners by Pro Football Focus. Penn State leads the country in pass breakups, and has held opposing quarterbacks to just 50-percent passing, second in the FBS. But this is the best receiving group it’s faced, and probably will face. Sophomore Emeka Egbuka is second in the Big Ten with 735 yards, sophomore Marvin Harrison Jr.’s 10 receiving touchdowns is second in college football, and the best receiver, Jaxon Smith-Njigba has struggled to find the field as he deals with a hamstring injury. After being limited to 21 snaps against Iowa, Smith-Njigba is expected to be limited again Saturday. Both teams heavily game plan around their strength and whoever wins this battle will likely come out on top.
Penn State’s defense will decide the outcome Saturday. Ohio State’s offense is electric, the second best by yards and scoring in the country. It has a Heisman front runner in quarterback CJ Stroud and is one of two teams in the FBS to average 300 yards passing, and 200 yards rushing. It’s not will Ohio State score points? It’s how many? Many Diaz will be tasked to keep Penn State close and give Penn State a chance. The Buckeyes soft spot is its defense, and Penn State will be the best its faced. Over the last six games, the average scoring difference has been just six points when these two teams meet, and since 2010, Penn State is 2-0 when holding Ohio State to fewer than four touchdowns, 0-10 when allowing four or more.
The Nittany Lion fans could be sneaky important. A home field advantage is always a nice touch, but given some more unusual dynamics at play, like a global pandemic, Penn State has a rare opportunity to welcome a conference team that’s pretty much never played in arguably college football’s toughest environment. Beaver Stadium is ruckus, it’s loud, it’s energized and it causes problems. Against Minnesota, the Golden Gophers’ had five false starts, each one eggs the crowd on. In the Big Ten you know this and every couple years you get to experience it, as a division foe, Ohio State is no stranger to State College. But the last time the Buckeyes were in Happy Valley was 2020, when no fans were in attendance. For many Buckeyes players, this is there first trip into a loud Beaver Stadium and considering Ohio State is relatively untested on the road (have only played one road game in 2022) it’s an interesting combination of factors that give Penn State a slight boost.