Penn State faces Ohio State on Saturday (10/21/23) in one of the most highly anticipated matchups of the season. In this article, find a full matchup preview for this Big Ten showdown along with the latest betting odds. In addition, find our best bet which is Penn State +4.5 and under 48.5 points.
Penn State Vs. Ohio State Prediction
College Football Game Day is headed to Columbus, Ohio for what many would call the biggest game of the season to this point. While Michigan are the reigning Big Ten champions, these teams join the Wolverines in the top ten of the AP Top 25.
#3 Ohio State has one of the most impressive wins of the season – on the road against Notre Dame – while we haven’t learned much from Penn State’s light schedule to this point, other than the fact that James Franklin is well aware of what the spread is.
When Ohio State Has the Ball
The Buckeyes lost a lot on offense over the offseason, including quarterback C.J. Stroud, offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson, and three starting offensive linemen. I’ve been left unenthused with this new group as Kyle McCord has been very shaky, the protection hasn’t been consistent, and new OC Brian Hartline hasn’t impressed.
One of the biggest questions for this Ohio State team remains its run game. The Buckeyes haven’t found the right mix this year, and they rank a shocking 100th in rushing success rate. That’s a massive issue against a Penn State defense that’s outstanding against the run, ranking third in rushing success rate allowed.
If the Buckeyes can’t move the ball on the ground on early downs, that spells trouble with McCord facing heavy pressure on passing downs. Penn State has a lights out pass rush – they led the FBS in pressure rate last year and edges Chop Robinson, Adisa Isaac, and Dani Dennis-Sutton will live in Ohio State’s backfield.
When Penn State Has the Ball
Is Drew Allar ready for this moment? That’s the big question when it comes to projecting an outright Penn State win. Allar hasn’t shown much this year – he’s been under 200 passing yards in each of his last three games – and he has struggled in his two true road starts, completing 48.5% of his passes against Illinois and 54.5% against Northwestern.
Running the ball will be crucial for the Nittany Lions, but unlike Ohio State, they have a high functioning run game this season. Nicholas Singleton and Kaytron Allen have led a run game that ranks top 30 in EPA and success rate, and leaning on those two on early downs will be huge to take pressure off Allar’s shoulders.
Ohio State’s defense is much improved this season in the second year with defensive coordinator Jim Knowles – the Buckeyes rank 17th in overall EPA/play allowed. Defensive backs Denzel Burke and Josh Proctor are among the best in the country at their respective positions, leading Ohio State to the fifth-ranked coverage unit per PFF.
I see both defenses as having a significant upper hand in this game, and I believe it will play out very similarly to Ohio State’s earlier matchup against Notre Dame. I’d play this under down to 45 points – that’s a key number when betting totals – and you can explore some alternate unders, as well.
Given my lack of confidence in McCord and Ohio State’s offense as a whole, I do like Penn State to cover this spread. I see the Nittany Lions as having the better run game and defense in this one, and if Allar can deliver on preseason promise as a former five-star recruit, Penn State is live to pull off the outright upset.
Penn State Vs. Ohio State Prediction: Penn State +4.5 and under 45.5 points
Penn State Vs. Ohio State Best Odds
PSU @ OSU
Oct. 21, 4:00 PM
100% of staff picked PSU to cover the spread
Odds updated October 21st, 2023, at 7:35 pm
The total for this game got absolutely whacked early in the week. It opened at 48.5 and the under was quickly bet down to the current 45.5. I wouldn’t be shocked if that number is even lower by the time you’re reading this leading up to kickoff. The spread has stayed relatively steady, although it’s down from the open of Ohio State -5.5 to -4.5. Make sure you have access to multiple sportsbooks so you can always get the best available number.
Penn State Vs. Ohio State Key Matchups
In this grudge match between Big Ten rivals, there are some fascinating matchups that will determine the winner of the game. Here, I’ll break down some of those key matchups in further detail.
Marvin Harrison Jr. vs. Kalen King
Whether it’s due to play calling, a decline in quarterback play, or the leg injury he suffered against Notre Dame, Marvin Harrison Jr. hasn’t quite been the dominant receiver he was last season. His metrics are down across the board, including a drop from a 65.3% catch rate to 53.4% and an uncharacteristically high 13.9% drop rate.
MHJ also hasn’t been the same force in contested catch situations – he’s come down with just two of 13 contested catches this year (15.4%) after 18 of 30 last year (60%). Still, there’s no question that when he’s on his game, Harrison Jr. is one of the most dangerous wide receivers in the country.
Penn State got burned by him last season as MHJ finished with 10 catches for 185 yards, and Kalen King in particular allowed three catches for 72 yards on four targets. King has essentially shut down half of the field all season as he’s allowed just nine catches for 93 yards on 19 targets. It will be thrilling to see these two first round prospects face off again.
Marvin Harrison Jr vs Kalen King/Joey Porter Jr pic.twitter.com/ju6X3EX9NT
— College Football Report (@CFBRep) July 19, 2023
Caedan Wallace vs. J.T. Tuimoloau
Penn State’s left tackle Olu Fashaun, a projected top five pick in the upcoming draft, is the team’s best offensive lineman, but right tackle Caedan Wallace has the team’s most important assignment in this game. Wallace missed the game against Ohio State last year, but he’ll be crucial this Saturday.
J.T. Tuimoloau, who lines up on the left side, was an absolute game wrecker last year against Penn State. Tuimoloau finished with six tackles, two sacks, one forced fumble, one fumble recovery, two interceptions, and a touchdown. In a game where Penn State was leading at halftime, Tuimoloau completely turned it on its head in a 13-point win.
Drew Allar has only been under pressure on 24.6% of his dropbacks this season, but his completion rate drops from 65.2% to 46.2% when he’s under pressure. Allar only has one turnover-worthy play all season, but that could quickly change if he’s under pressure in a hostile environment, so protecting him will be crucial.
📌 6 tackles
📌 2 sacks
📌 1 FF
📌 1 FR
📌 2 INT
📌 1 TD
— Big Ten Football (@B1Gfootball) October 17, 2023