PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS AT OHIO STATE BUCKEYES (-18.5, 56.5)
There’s no denying the Buckeyes’ firepower. Ohio State is the No. 1 scoring team in the nation, averaging 51.5 points per contest in 2019. However, OSU has started slow – for its standards – averaging “only” 11.5 points per first quarter – just 22 percent of the program’s total offensive production per game.
Penn State has been stingy in the first 15 minutes on the season (3.4 average points allowed), but that has slipped a bit in recent games. That said, the Buckeyes haven’t broken out of the blocks for a touchdown when facing stiff Big Ten competition. They settled for a field as the opening scoring versus Wisconsin and did the same taking on Michigan State.
A field goal opened scoring in last year’s game at Happy Valley and has been the first score of the game in three of the past four matchups between these storied programs. Ohio State to open scoring is a -225 proposition – and likely a winning one – but we like the tasty plus-money payout on a Buckeyes field goal to get the ball rolling Saturday afternoon.
PREDICTION: First score: Ohio State FG +475
FIRST HALF BET
We mentioned Ohio State’s methodical pace in the first quarter (if you can call 11.5 points per “methodical”?) but the Buckeyes really find their stride in the second frame. They’re putting up an FBS-best 20.3 second-quarter points per showing – more than four points better than the next team in that stat (LSU -16.1).
Quarterback Justin Fields is the driving force behind this second-quarter surge. He averages 10.3 yards per completion and 16 of his total 31 passing touchdowns have occurred in that 15-minute frame, boasting an insane 207.2 QB rating in the second quarter alone.
Penn State’s passing defense has struggled dramatically in recent weeks, allowing 8.6 yards per attempt over its last three. The Nittany Lions have been scorched for 710 total passing yards the past two games, and meet their toughest task in Fields, who does his best work in the second quarter.
PREDICTION: Ohio State -10.5 first-half spread
This Buckeyes’ passing attack could be peaking at the right time, averaging 14.7 yards per catch over their last three outings. Fields is beginning to really gel with his receivers and OSU is seeing that in big-yardage completions.
He hit WR Chris Olave for two strikes of 42 and 58 yards and connected with WR K.J. Hill for a 35-yard pass that found paydirt versus Rutgers last weekend. Head coach Ryan Day told the media this more aggressive passing playbook is something they’ve been focusing on toward the end of the season.
Olave will draw the ire of the PSU secondary, which should free up Hill to find open air down field. He’s put up efforts of 62 and 56 yards with eight total receptions in his last two games and is a great bet to go Over his yardage total of 48.5 Saturday.
PREDICTION: K.J. Hill Over 48.5 yards receiving
Much is made of this Ohio State offense, but the Nittany Lions can also put up the points. Penn State is averaging just under 37 points per game in 2019, including an average of 29 points over its last four outings – all of which came against solid Big Ten competition.
Head coach James Franklin is well aware that he won’t be able to shutdown the Buckeyes attack, but he may be able to slow it a bit – enough to give his offense a shot. While WR K.J. Hamler's status is up in the air, it looks like freshman RB Noah Cain could be in action after missing the past two games with a leg injury. He’s vital to this offense, especially when it comes to converting on short-yardage situations as well as in the red zone (six touchdowns).
The Buckeyes have bowed a bit on defense the past two games, giving up 14 points to Maryland and 21 to Rutgers last Saturday. Ohio State hadn’t allowed that many points since a 45-21 Week 1 win over FAU, limiting all but three opponents to 10 points or less this season.
This total has ticked up a bit since opening at 55.5 and some books are already dealing a 57.5 Over/Under. Get the Over at the lowest number you can find.
PREDICTION: Over 56.5
Not only are the Buckeyes out to secure the Big Ten East title and book that spot in the conference championship, but they’re out to score style points and impress the CFP selection committee. Ohio State enters Saturday as the No. 2 team in the Week 13 rankings, with Clemson and Georgia hot on its heels.
The Buckeyes took their foot off the gas versus Rutgers last Saturday, surrendering a season-high 21 points against – 14 of which came in the second half after Day had begun yanking his first teamers. They will not show PSU similar mercy this Saturday.
Ohio State hasn’t really had to flex in the fourth quarter this season, outscoring opponents by an average tally of 42.2 to 6.9 through the first three quarters of action. That’s left the Buckeyes running the ball and killing clock in the last 15 minutes, putting up only 9.3 points for in the final stanza.
However, OSU has turned up the intensity in the fourth over the last three games, averaging 14 points in those closing quarters. Penn State’s stingy defense has wobbled down the stretch and takes on an Ohio State squad with absolutely no chill when it comes to running up the score in the biggest game of the year.
PREDICTION: Ohio State -18.5