Preview: Buckeyes travel to Penn State for top-20 showdown

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STATE COLLEGE, Pennsylvania (WCMH) — No. 3 Ohio State is gearing up for its first, and arguably most important, road game of the 2020 season.

The Buckeyes and their upcoming opponent, No. 18 Penn State, are coming off very different week one games. OSU thrashed Nebraska 52-17 at the Horseshoe while the Nittany Lions were upset 36-35 in overtime by Indiana.

Penn State may have been eliminated from the College Football Playoff with that loss because of the Big Ten’s shortened eight-game regular season.

The Nittany Lions only hope of playing in the playoff is beating Ohio State on Saturday in primetime, and they won’t have the benefit of 106,000 screaming fans packed inside beaver Stadium for a classic white out game under the lights.

Ohio State will look to continue its efficiency in the pass game after Justin Fields completed 20 of 21 passes for 276 yards and two touchdowns. Look for Ohio State to try to take advantage of Penn State’s freshman cornerback Joey Porter Jr., especially with Chris Olave listed as available after taking a big hit last week and a career-high day for sophomore Garrett Wilson.

The Buckeyes racked up nearly 500 yards of total offense, but the rushing attack was subpar with no back rushing for more than 50 yards. In fact, Fields led the team in rushing with 54 yards.

Despite its loss, Penn State only gave up 41 yards rushing and the Buckeyes could be in trouble if they can’t get the ground game going.

On defense, OSU has the benefit of playing against an injury-riddled Nittany Lions’ backfield.

Before the season, Penn State had the best running back in the Big Ten in Journey Brown. But an undisclosed medical condition has sidelined Brown for the foreseeable future. His backup, Noah Cain, is also an elite back but he will miss the remainder of the season after suffering a leg injury on Penn State’s opening drive against the Hoosiers.

That leaves PSU with third-string running back Devyn Ford who must carry the burden alongside junior quarterback Sean Clifford.

The first collegiate start for redshirt junior was up and down as he rushed for more than 100 yards, threw for 238 yards and recorded four total touchdowns. But he also threw two first-half interceptions, which helped Indiana jump out to a 17-7 halftime lead.

Ohio State’s defense started out slow against Nebraska allowing a four-play, 75-yard drive that resulted in a touchdown. After giving up another touchdown in the second quarter, the Buckeyes settled in and only gave up three points in the second half while forcing two fumbles, including one that was returned 55 yards for a touchdown by Sevyn Banks.

Penn State also showed lack of discipline in week one by committing 10 penalties costing it 100 yards compared to OSU, which only had three penalties for 14 yards lost.

The game between the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions has lost a bit of its hype with Penn State’s inexcusable week one loss, but even the loss itself was confounding from a box score perspective.

Penn State outgained Indiana by more than 250 yards, allowed less than 50 yards rushing, converted 11 more first downs, had a much better third-down efficiency, rushed for 250 yards and more than doubled Indiana in time of possession.

The Nittany Lions’ biggest mistakes came through unforced errors in the form of three turnovers and 10 penalties as well as missed opportunities with three missed field goals and a failed 4th and 1 on the Indiana 25. If corrected, the game between Ohio State and Penn State should be much more evenly matched, especially given the Big Ten Championship and College Football Playoff implications.

The line on this game is -12.5 in favor of the Buckeyes and that feels about right after OSU’s dominating performance in week one.

Justin Holbrock score prediction: Ohio State 38 Penn State 24.

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