39-38 in 2017. 27-26 in 2018.
Those were the final scores the last two times Ohio State and Penn State played. Both times, Penn State had the lead. Both times, Penn State was unable to hold off Ohio State from coming back and stealing victory from them.
The 9-1 Nittany Lions will travel into Ohio Stadium for a highly anticipated matchup with the undefeated Ohio State Buckeyes for a national television audience that kicks off at 12 p.m. ET on FOX. Ohio State is the heavy favorite (-17.5 points), but recent history has shown that Penn State is capable of bringing the Buckeyes to the verge of defeat.
This game promises to be exciting, with Ohio State possibly clinching the Big Ten East Division title with a victory. Below are the five reasons why Ohio State is going to earn its third straight win over Penn State.
Ohio State Football: 5 Reasons Why the Buckeyes Will Beat Penn State
1. Chase Young is back
Afters missing the past two games, Young has what the popular 1980s band Guns 'N' Roses would refer to as an "Appetite For Destruction." Fully rested, look for Young to wreak havoc on a Penn State offensive line that has not yet faced a pass rusher that possesses his combination of speed and strength. How the Nittany Lions decide to block Young is anyone's guess, but double-teams may open up other opportunities for other players on a talented Ohio State defensive line. How big of an impact could Young have on this game? Consider that even though he's missed the past two games, his 13.5 sacks leave him just a half-sack behind Oregon State's Hamilcar Rashed Jr. for the FBS lead and he's tied for seventh in tackles for a loss (15.5).
2. Justin Fields
Penn State head coach James Franklin can only lament what might have been if Fields had stuck with his original verbal commitment to play for the Nittany Lions. Instead, Franklin will have to try and defend against a legitimate dual-threat quarterback who can hurt the Nittany Lions with his legs as well as his arm. Speaking of Fields' arm...
3. Ohio State's wide receivers vs. Penn State's secondary
The Nittany Lions enter this game giving up 240 passing yards per game. That ranks them 12th in the Big Ten and this defense had had its issues against the pass the last two weeks. In the loss to Minnesota two weeks ago, the Golden Gophers threw for 339 yards and three touchdowns, with Rashod Bateman and Tyler Johnson accounting for 307 yards and two touchdowns on 14 catches (21.9 ypr). Then last week, Indiana threw for 371 yards and a touchdown with Ty Frogle (5 rec., 131 yds., TD) accounting for a lot of the damage. The other common thread with these two games? No interceptions for Penn State's defense.
Now the Nittany Lions face the Buckeyes' potent passing attack, one that has averaged 254 yards per game through the air (third in Big Ten) and has produced 38 touchdowns with just one interception. Fields is the trigger man, but he has plenty of weapons to throw to, including leading receiver K.J. Hill (38 rec., 423 yds., 6 TDs), big-play threat Binjimen Victor (17.0 ypc, 6 TDs), and the underrated Chris Olave, who is tied for the conference lead with nine touchdown catches. Things won't be any easier for Penn State's defensive backs on Saturday.
4. Has Penn State already peaked?
I am not trying to imply that the Nittany Lions are not a very good team, but they had to hold on at home to beat Michigan 28-21 back on Oct. 19, won 28-7 on the road against a Michigan State team that's in danger of missing a bowl game, lost at Minnesota 31-26 two weeks ago, and then most recently survived Indiana 34-27 at home. Given this string of results, does Penn State have the depth and talent to go four quarters with an Ohio State team that is averaging nearly 52 points a game?
5. Ohio State Senior Day
A very sentimental and emotional day for any college football program, this will be the last time several talented seniors, and probably many juniors, will have the opportunity to don the scarlet and gray jersey for the Buckeyes. The home crowd and the atmosphere will make for a challenging environment for the visiting Nittany Lions.