Ohio State remains No.1 in the polls, but the Buckeyes have not been as dominant as the experts predicted they would be in the preseason. Despite having a few close calls in their first six games, the defending national champs shouldn’t have much trouble when they host Penn State on Saturday night.
Both teams are coming off easy wins in conference play. Ohio State blew out Maryland, 49-28, and Penn State got a 29-7 victory against Indiana. Las Vegas oddsmakers have made the Buckeyes 18.5-point favorites, but the betting line has seen a significant drop. Ohio State was a 21-point favorite at one time, according to vegasinsider.com. The over/under is 47 points.
Prior to the start of the season, the Buckeyes were the unanimous choice atop the AP Top 25 Poll. While they remain No.1 after a 6-0 start and two wins in the Big Ten, Ohio State only garnered 27 first-place votes this week. They haven’t steamrolled their way to a perfect record like many thought they would, going just 1-5 against the spread.
Cardale Jones began the season as one of the favorites to win the Heisman Trophy, but he’s a long shot to win the award. The junior quarterback has only thrown two more touchdowns than interceptions, and he was even benched in the team’s third game, having been picked off on two of his nine passes against Northern Illinois.
Bringing in backup J.T. Barrett for the rest of the game wasn’t the answer, and Jones has remained the starter. But head coach Urban Meyer may have found something in the team’s most recent win. Jones had his best game of the year, completing 21 of 28 passes for 291 yards and two scores. Meyer utilized Barrett when the Buckeyes got close to the goal line, and the signal caller ran for three scores, helping the team convert touchdowns on all six trips in the red zone.
Penn State will have their hands full with both quarterbacks, and they won’t have an easy time stopping Ezekiel Elliott. The running back has played up to expectations this season, rushing for 835 yards and 10 touchdowns on 8.7 yards per carry.
The Nittany Lions can keep pace with the Buckeyes if their defense plays like it has for most of the 2015 season. They rank 10th in total defense and 11th in scoring defense, allowing 14 points or fewer in four of their last five games.
Ohio State has played down to their competition, beating both Northern Illinois and Indiana by just a touchdown. Conversely, Penn State beat the Hoosiers by 22 points, and they can hang with the Buckeyes if they aren’t taken seriously.
After their recent 21-point victory over Maryland, it appears that Ohio State has turned a corner. They are too talented and too well coached to continue allowing lesser teams to stick around. In an important rivalry game at home, the Buckeyes could make a statement that they are still the team to beat in college football.
Ohio State over Penn State, 38-17