Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Fresh off a trip to the Big 12 to watch Oklahoma escape Baylor by three points, the ESPN College GameDay crew returns to Big Ten territory for a showdown between Penn State and Ohio State.
Those eighth-ranked Nittany Lions enter hostile territory looking to salvage a season after going 1-1 over their last two. The second-ranked Buckeyes aim to stay flawless in what feels like the team’s first big test in quite a long time.
Ohio State figures to have a big advantage at home in this encounter with long-reaching implications, but Penn State can attest firsthand to how unexpectedly quick things can go off the rails.
Here’s everything to know about the preview show boasting Rece Davis, Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso and Desmond Howard, before a look at the game itself.
College GameDay Week 13 Info
Date: Saturday, November 23
Time (ET): 9 a.m. to noon; game is at noon.
Location: Ohio Stadium
Live Stream: Fox Sports Live
Penn State is back to the basics as it hopes to clutch a slim hope about postseason dreams and conference titles.
The Nittany Lions went down hard on November 9, 31-26 in a road encounter with then-No. 17 Minnesota. The Golden Gophers turned right around and lost in their next game.
Penn State, however, rebounded in the form of a 34-27 win over Indiana.
“We won the field-position battle, we won the turnover battle, we won the penalty battle,” coach James Franklin said, according to Stats LLC (via ESPN.com). “And then we won the explosive-play battle, which was great.”
Finding the positive in getting a win over a 7-3 team while coughing up 462 total yards and a 7-of-13 mark on third downs is important before a game with a team like Ohio State.
Back-to-back hiccups haven’t derailed Penn State’s season-long standings too much. The defense still permits just 13.5 points per game and dual-threat Sean Clifford might only be completing 59.6 percent of his passes, but he’s scored 22 times through the air and five more times on the ground as one of three players with five or more rushing scores.
But on the other end of the spectrum is an Ohio State squad only getting better via the return of Chase Young.
Franklin hasn’t minced words on the subject:
To date, Young has 13.5 sacks while looking like the top pick in the upcoming NFL draft.
Not that the Buckeyes have needed his help much lately. After a 38-7 dismantling of then-No. 13 Wisconsin, Young’s team went out and whipped Maryland by a 73-14 margin and then cruised through a road game against Rutgers, 56-21.
For those keeping track, Justin Fields is up to a 69.1 completion percentage with 31 touchdowns against just one interception. He’s also rushed for 10 touchdowns. Behind him in the backfield, J.K. Dobbins has 1,289 yards and 13 scores on an average of seven yards per carry. Eight players have caught multiple touchdowns, and three have six or more for an offense leading the nation in scoring at 51.5 points per game.
Given the trajectories of the two teams lately, it’s not hard to see why Penn State stands as a widely held underdog. Even then, the cold of November, conference play and postseason aspirations have a way of sometimes making things more interesting than they have any right being.
Jay LaPrete/Associated Press
Bank on the Buckeyes cementing a trip to the conference championship game.
Penn State stumbled at the worst time of year and didn’t rebound in convincing fashion over Indiana. The offense has simply been too erratic to trust, which is a problematic bit of ground to stand on heading into a game against an angry Young.
Never mind Ohio State’s offense, which seems to do whatever it wants to any opponent. Maybe the Buckeyes don’t put up 50, but the versatile Fields-led attack shouldn’t have many problems against the same Nittany Lions defense that coughed up three passing scores and 30-plus points in the loss to Minnesota.
The recipe here is obvious: Ohio State pounces early, Young feasts against a one-dimensional attack attempting to play catch up.
Prediction: Buckeyes 42, Nittany Lions 20