CFB In-Depth: No. 8 Penn State At No. 2 Ohio State

The Ohio State faithful will flood the Horseshoe this coming Saturday afternoon to watch their beloved Buckeyes (10-0) take on the visiting Penn State Nittany Lions (9-1) in what will certainly be their toughest test of the season thus far. The two teams have a history of duking it out in dramatic fashion, and this weekend will likely be no different. Both sides have everything still to fight for, and the stakes couldn’t be higher. With a potential Big Ten Championship berth on the line, all eyes will be trained firmly on Columbus as Ryan Day’s crew looks to continue its perfect regular season campaign.

The Bucks are favored by 17.5 points, but all bets will be off once the game is underway. Ohio State has won six of its last eight contests against the Nittany Lions, and this year’s squad will look to continue their recent dominance of their fellow conference contender. The visitors, however, will be out for blood, looking to snatch the lead in the Big Ten East and to make a late-season charge toward the top of the College Football Playoff rankings. For Ohio State, the Penn State game is second in magnitude only to the upcoming battle against the Wolverines in the Big House; a high-octane, wire-to-wire thriller is to be expected. 

Penn State’s accomplishments this season are not to be diminished, as they have stumbled only once on the road against a red-hot Minnesota team who was No. 17 in the country at the time. Their resumé features crucial victories against No. 19 Iowa and No. 13 Michigan, outcomes that have helped the Nittany Lions cement their place among the Big Ten’s legitimate title contenders. This Saturday’s contest marks an opportunity to sully Ohio State’s postseason aspirations on their home turf, a chance James Franklin’s squad will not take lightly.

It’s no secret that the Buckeyes’ season thus far has been flawless in nearly every imaginable way. Ohio State is without a loss, and none of their opponents have come particularly close to knocking them off; their lethal combination of offensive and defensive weapons has left other Big Ten teams searching desperately for a chink in the Buckeyes’ armor. Ryan Day has captained his squad with poignance and thus far has proved himself a worthy successor of Urban Meyer. However, he’ll face the toughest fight of his young career this weekend as a loaded Penn State squad aims to sour the Buckeyes’ impressive regular-season run.

Players to watch 

Justin Fields (QB, Ohio State): Few players this season have put up numbers even slightly comparable to those of Justin Fields. The Georgia transfer has been a welcome addition to the Buckeye offense, scoring 41 total touchdowns and throwing just one interception along the way. His mix of pure athleticism and arm talent has proved nightmarish for opposing defenses, and he’ll look to use his unique skillset to wreak havoc on the Nittany Lions. 

Sean Clifford (QB, Penn State): The Nittany Lions’ signal-caller has been a key factor in their success thus far. Clifford has thrown for 22 touchdowns and six interceptions in his first year as a starter, proving beyond a doubt that he can hang with college football’s heavyweights at the quarterback position. A trend has emerged through Penn State’s first 10 games; if Clifford can manage to execute and perform, the rest of the team will follow suit. There’s no question that Clifford’s performance will have a monumental impact on the outcome of Saturday’s contest.