COLUMBUS, Ohio – Second-ranked Ohio State welcomes back defensive stalwart Chase Young from a two-game suspension and his presence solidifies the Buckeyes as a decisive favorite for Saturday's key Big Ten clash at home with No. 9 Penn State. The unbeaten Buckeyes carry a 16-game winning streak into the game and their national championship aspirations hinge on the outcome.
TV: Noon ET, FOX. LINE: Ohio State -18.5
A potential matchup of two undefeated teams was spoiled two weeks ago when Penn State lost at Minnesota, but the Nittany Lions can still secure at least a share of the Big Ten East Division title with two more wins and a berth in the conference championship game. Ohio State's road to the postseason is simple: Win this week, and the following week at No. 12 Michigan and in the Big Ten championship game to reach the College Football Playoff semifinals. Young's return from a suspension for accepting a personal loan strengthens an already-strong Ohio State defense that leads the country in fewest points (9.8), total yards (216.4) and passing yards (126.0) allowed per game. Young ranks second in FBS in sacks with 13.5 and in tackles for loss (1.9 per game) despite missing the two contests.
ABOUT PENN STATE (9-1, 6-1 Big Ten)
The Nittany Lions bounced back from its first loss with a 34-27 victory at home last week over feisty Indiana, but their pass defense has faltered in the past two games and allowed a combined 711 yards. On offense, Penn State possesses the skill to challenge Ohio State with quarterback Sean Clifford, receiver KJ Hamler (injured last week but expected to play), tight end Pat Freierrmuth and running back Journey Brown as the key players. Clifford, a Cincinnati native, leads the Big Ten in total offense with 282.4 yards per game (2,450 passing, 374 rushing), Hamler has 46 receptions for 791 yards and eight touchdowns, Brown has reached 100 yards rushing each of the past two games, and Freierrmuth caught three touchdown passes in an Oct. 26 win at Michigan State.
ABOUT OHIO STATE (10-0, 7-0)
After manhandling Maryland and Rutgers the past two weeks by a combined score of 129-35, Ohio State faces their first significant opponent since they disposed of No. 14 Wisconsin on Oct. 26. A quick review of the statistics confirm the Buckeyes’ dominance this season, highlighted by first-year quarterback Justin Fields’ 31 touchdown passes and one interception to go with 10 rushing touchdowns and 246 points responsible for in 10 games. Running back J.K. Dobbins ranks fifth nationally in rushing yards with 1,289 despite carrying the ball only 42 times in the second half all season.
1. Statistics reflect the disparity between Ohio State and the rest of the Big Ten as evidenced by the Buckeyes leading the Big Ten in points per game over second-place Penn State (51.5-36.8) and in total yards allowed by their defenses (216.4-316.8).
2. With 3,745 rushing yards in two-plus seasons, Dobbins needs 24 yards to pass former Heisman Trophy winner Eddie George for third place on Ohio State's career list.
3. Penn State and Ohio State traditionally play competitive games. The Buckeyes beat the Nittany Lions by one point in each of the past two seasons, and Penn State won by three at home in 2016.
PREDICTION: Ohio State 42, Penn State 20