Penn State football vs. Ohio State preview

penn state football

2020 has been the year of what ifs. What if there wasn’t a global pandemic? What if Penn State‘s All-American linebacker never opted out? What if the Nittany Lions’ top two running backs never got hurt? Well, I think I’d be more excited than any kid on Christmas Eve. I mean think about this: Halloween night. Blue moon. 7:30 p.m. under the lights of Beaver Stadium.

While those things build up some excitement, everyone knows this game is not going to be what it was supposed to be. But one thing remains the same and provides some normalcy: Penn State’s hatred for Ohio State and Ohio State’s hatred for Penn State. That’s why I’ll try to forget about all the factors stacked up against the home team this Saturday and fantasize about a Nittany Lions upset.

As a die-hard fan, this might sound weird to say, but I’m sick of Penn State fans obsessing over the Marcus Allen blocked kick, Grant Haley scoop and score from 2016. I’m so over that game it’s not even funny. The following two years after that, Penn State blew leads late in both games against the Buckeyes and last year, Ohio State was just the better team.

To put it simply, Ohio State has historically dominated Penn State football. Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State is just 8-19 in this “rivalry” if you can even call it that, including losing nine of the last 11. That needs to change this year. The game that was supposed to be the whiteout with 110,000 fans chirping Ryan Day’s team from the moment it ran out of the tunnel will instead be played in front of a bunch of empty seats in State College.

Heisman hopeful Justin Fields will be the focus for Penn State. He was electric in his first year as a starter at Ohio State after transferring from Georgia. He can run and throw and do them both at an elite level. To put it nicely, I do not like Justin Fields. I can remember the day in high school when I was sitting on my couch scrolling through Twitter to see the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the country committed to, of course, Penn State, so when he decommitted, I was personally offended.

I envisioned running routes for him in the quad developing a Joe Montana - Jerry Rice type of connection that would force James Franklin to hand me every scholarship he has to offer. I’m joking of course, but I’m not joking about despising him. I hope he doesn’t have fun on Saturday.

This is obviously the biggest game of the year. Coming off a loss to Indiana, Penn State will have to win out to even give itself a chance at a Big Ten Championship or playoff opportunity. Penn State is not the better team and will have to play a nearly flawless game to even keep it close. Get creative, win the turnover battle and just want to win more. If Penn State can do that, it could be an entertaining game. Here are some things to look for throughout the game.


After losing Noah Cain for the season after just three carries against Indiana, Devyn Ford took over as the starting running back. Now, he and freshmen Cazaiah Holmes and Keyveon Lee will be counted on to establish the running game. It’s a tough spot to be in, but they’re superstars in the making. At least one of them will break out.

From the quarterback position, Sean Clifford needs to be better. The numbers will tell you he played well against Indiana, but he didn’t. If he makes the mistakes he made last week, this game will get ugly fast. The only way Penn State has a chance to win is if Clifford takes care of the ball. Kirk Ciarrocca needs to find a way to get his skilled players in space and try some trickery to catch the Ohio State defense off guard. It’ll be tough to score with the injuries and inexperience we have, but it has to be done.


I was trying to think of something to say for what Penn State football needs to do to stop Fields and then I just stopped and laughed. You can’t. He’s a Heisman candidate for a reason and you can only hope just to slow him down. I don’t even care if Brent Pry shadows Fields with two guys, just make someone else beat you.

After being ejected for targeting at Indiana, Jesse Luketa will miss the first half so we’re going to get a look at Lance Dixon at linebacker. Coaches and recruiters have spoken highly of the redshirt sophomore, and there is no brighter stage than Saturday night to show what he can do.

The turnover battle will decide this game. Penn State needs Shaka Toney and Jayson Oweh to bring the pressure like they did last week and get the football. The entire unit is in for a long day if it’s not aggressive from the opening kick. Ohio State is like a track team and has no problem scoring points when it needs to.

Game info

Date: Oct. 31
Time: 7:30 p.m. ET
Spread: Ohio State -12
Over/Under: 64

Prediction: Ohio State 35 - Penn State 20

Hot take: Joey Porter Jr. records his first career interception.