No. 3 Ohio State (1-0) travels to State College, PA to face No. 18 ranked Penn State (0-1) Saturday night (7:30 pm ET) in what will probably be the Buckeyes toughest game of its shortened eight-game schedule. Ranked Big Ten teams like Indiana and Michigan will face Ohio State at Columbus later on the schedule so Saturday’s road game will have major College Football Playoff implications.
Are the Buckeyes as good as any of the past squads that have gone 99-10 over the last eight seasons? With no fans in the stands due to Pennsylvania COVID-19 concerns, the Beaver Stadium home-field edge may not be as menacing as recent meetings, but since 2016 the Nittany Lions have gone 26-2 at home, which includes a 24-21 win against Ohio State in 2016 as 19-point underdogs.
Circa Sports is the first to post numbers in Nevada and opened Ohio State as 10-point road favorites at 2:11 pm PT on Sunday. Within six hours they had moved to -11.5 when other markets opened up -- people are smarter when there are multiple lines to choose from. By 11 pm they were -12 and on Monday morning they went to -12.5 and then to -13.
Circa is also the only sportsbook to open totals immediately and they set it at 62.5 and on Monday they bumped it up to 64.5. The SuperBook is the lowest price at -12.5 and the highest number is -13.5 at South Point. William Hill US books are at -13 and their head bookmaker Nick Bogdanovich had some early thoughts on the game.
“I don’t think this game will have as big a handle as (last week's) Alabama-Georgia,” Bogdanovich said. “But it’ll be huge just because it’s the big game of the day and it’s one of the later games that day. Ohio State was a huge decision for us last weekend, and everyone who bet that game will be back on them here. We’re going to need Ohio State to not cover a game or two. They looked so good and Penn State lost, so this line is a little extra higher than it could have been.”
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Las Vegas oddsmaker Kenny White worked his tail off during the summer to keep up with all the teams and players who were going to play in 2020 and those that weren’t and it was a changing situation daily, He has Ohio State’s rating at 135 tied as the second-highest rated team and has Penn State at 118 tied as the ninth rated team.
The Buckeyes total rating is 33.5 and the Nittany Lions are at 28.5 giving us a 62. The home-field edge would have been minimal even with fans because Ohio State is the better team, but let’s give Beaver Stadium 1-point just for the inconvenience of the Buckeyes traveling. Kenny’s numbers add up to Ohio State -16, with a total of 62.
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William Hill sportsbooks have Ohio State +275 to win the College Football Championship, the second-lowest odds behind Clemson (+160). Penn State is 80-to-1 to win it all after losing to Indiana,
The Buckeyes beat Nebraska, 52-17, last week in Columbus in front of only 1,200 people (family) in the stands with 100,000 empty seats. But after a sluggish start, they eventually covered the inflated spread of -27.5 by winning the second half 28-3. QB Justin Fields completed 20-of-21 passes for 276 yards and 2 TDs.
“Ohio State looks strong and (Justin) Fields is a Heisman candidate,” said Bogdanovich. “They’re definitely the team to beat in that conference. But they’ll get tested. Wisconsin looks good, Michigan looks good, Penn State can give them a scare. Even though Ohio State has been the class of the Big Ten for a while, they’ll get tested.”
Fields was the second-choice to win the Heisman Trophy at 5-to-1 odds behind Trevor Lawrence but most books have taken the prop off the board. The main concern Buckeye fans have after the Nebraska game is that no running back took control of the game after losing J.K. Dobbins to the NFL. They rushed for 222 yards but Trey Sermon (55 yards) and Master Teague (41 yards) didn’t scare the Huskers.
The good news for Ohio State is that their receiving corps are in good hands with Garrett Wilson and Chris Olave who both went over 100 yards. They also have three returning offensive-linemen that passed up the NFL. They have six starters returning on offense and four starters returning on defense from last season's 13-1 team.
Penn State could be extremely irritated off a bad 36-35 loss at Indiana last week when they could have just downed the ball up 21-20 with 1:47 left, but Indiana let RB Devyn Ford run free for the TD making it 28-20 and giving Indiana the ball back. The Hoosiers scored, converted the 2-point conversion and then they won in overtime.
“Obviously (Penn State head coach James) Franklin dropped the ball big time,” said Bogdanovich. “But it’s still their first game, it’s the first full run they had. Penn State may still be really good, they just played a bad game. Or maybe Indiana’s improved. Time will tell. But when it’s your first game out, anything can happen.”
The good news from the Indiana game was that Penn State showed a balanced offense that gained 488 yards, 250 of it on the ground, and the defense allowed only 211 yards. Their top-4 leading rushers returned in 2020 which includes junior QB Sam Clifford. Eight starters return on offense and five return on defense from a team that went 11-2 last season.
Ohio State has covered its last four October games and has gone 8-1 ATS in its last nine games after allowing an opponent less than 20-points. Penn State has covered its last four games as home underdogs and is 8-1 ATS in its last nine games following an ATS loss.
The underdog (Penn State) has covered the last four meetings and the home team is 5-2 ATS in the last seven meetings.
2019: at Ohio State 28-17 (-19, 58)
2018: Ohio State 27-26 (-3, 68.5)
2017: at Ohio State 39-28 (-7, 56.5)
2016: at Penn State 24-21 (+19, 55)
2015: at Ohio State 38-10 (-17.5, 50)
2014: Ohio State 31-24 (-14, 53)
“We got a huge task ahead of us,” Buckeyes head coach Ryan Day said after Ohio State’s win last week, which came before Penn State’s loss. “We gotta go to Penn State on the road and win a night game, and so this is going to be a huge week in terms of preparation, and it starts in a few hours here.”
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