No college football team has had more success over the past year and a half than Ohio State. The Buckeyes have won 19 consecutive games, dating back to the start of the 2012 season. On Saturday, the No.4 team in the country will look to make it 20 straight against one of their Big Ten rivals.
Ohio State host Penn State in their fourth conference game of 2014 at Ohio Stadium. The Nittany Lions are 1-1 in the Big Ten, and a win would keep them in contention to win the Leaders Division, even though they have been banned from postseason play. It won’t be easy, though, considering the point spread has the Buckeyes favored by more than two touchdowns.
"We go in expecting to win every game, but we also go in embracing the underdog role," Penn State offensive lineman Adam Gress told ESPN. "Every game is a big game with nothing to lose, in our opinion. It's no secret that we're not going to bowl games and things like that. So every game's a big one."
A victory for the Nittany Lions would be the school’s biggest in the past few years. It would even surpass Penn State’s win in their last game, which was a very important one for the program. They defeated then-No.18 Michigan in overtime on the strength of a fourth quarter comeback.
Ohio State also came from behind to win their last game. In fact, Buckeyes have almost been upset in their last two contests. On Oct.5, they trailed Northwestern halfway through the final quarter. Last week, they didn’t take their first lead until the final minutes of the third quarter.
Once again, it was Ohio State’s running game that propelled it to victory. As a team, the Buckeyes totaled 273 yards on the ground, led by Carlos Hyde. Hyde’s 134 rushing yards per game rank second during Big Ten games. He, along with quarterback Braxton Miller, have helped OSU score 45 points per game.
If the Nittany Lions hope to keep pace with their opponents' high-powered offense, it will, likely, have to be with an effective passing attack. The Buckeyes haven’t allowed a 100-yard rusher all season long. However, they have been susceptible against the pass. Last week, Iowa was able to keep pace because of their aerial attack. They allowed quarterback Jake Rudock to throw for a season-high three touchdowns.
“I don’t think we’ve ever been manhandled like that, allowed ourselves to be manhandled like that,” defensive lineman Michael Bennett said. “I don’t think that’s going to happen at all the rest of the season.”
Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is coming off back-to-back 300-yard performances. The freshman threw three touchdowns for Penn State in the upset over Michigan. More important than his overall numbers, Hackenberg engineered a drive at the end of the fourth quarter that sent the game into overtime.
The Buckeyes have 15 wins in 28 meetings between the two schools. Ohio State won last year’s matchup, 35-23, but Penn State was victorious the last time the teams met at Ohio Stadium in 2011, 20-14.
Las Vegas Betting Odds: Ohio State favored by 14.5 points
Over-Under: 56.5 points
Kickoff Time: 8:00 PM Eastern Time
TV Channel: ABC
Prediction: Ohio State 41, Penn State 24