College Football Odds & Picks for Ohio State vs. Penn State: Betting Value Lies With Home Underdog

College Football Odds & Picks for Ohio State vs. Penn State: Betting Value Lies With Home Underdog article feature image
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Jamie Sabau/Getty Images. Pictured: Sean Clifford and Tuf Borland.

Ohio State at Penn State Odds

Ohio State Odds -10.5 [BET NOW]
Penn State Odds +10.5 [BET NOW]
Moneyline -420/+290 [BET NOW]
Over/Under 63.5 [BET NOW]
Time Saturday, 7:30 p.m. ET
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Ohio State Buckeyes

The Buckeyes opened the season with a 35-point victory over Nebraska, leading college football consumers to believe Ohio State is a lock for the playoff. And while that may be true, underneath the final score shows an advanced box score that may have revealed some future conflicts for Ryan Day’s defense: Nebraska pushed the Ohio State front seven around for most of the game, leaving the Buckeyes with a rank of 87th in Line Yards.

The Cornhuskers may be improved, but the Buckeyes’ loss of Chase Young left new defensive coordinator Kerry Coombs without any bite in the Havoc department. Ohio State tallied just five tackles for loss without a quarterback hurry. More worrisome is a back seven that was graded 79th in coverage by Pro Football Focus.

Nebraska quarterback Adrian Martinez found himself with plenty of open looks that other Big Ten quarterbacks can capitalize on against Ohio State.

There are no worries for the Buckeyes on the offensive side of the ball, as Justin Fields went 20-of-21 last week. Both Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson had more than 100 yards receiving as Fields found eight different pass-catchers on the day.

If there was a concerning note for the Ohio State offense, it’s the number of times Fields was used to rush the ball: The quarterback was hampered by knee issues down the stretch of 2019 that limited his pocket mobility, yet Fields recorded 15 rushes for 54 yards with seven scrambles on passing attempts.


Penn State Nittany Lions

Of the many misleading box scores from Week 8, the Indiana-Penn State tilt was at the top of the list.

A simple fall at the 1-yard line by Devyn Ford would have kept Penn State in the hunt for the College Football Playoff. Instead, the Nittany Lions are 0-1 on the season after posting a 99% postgame win expectancy against the Hoosiers.

Ford ended with 69 yards on 20 carries and will be the workhorse now that Noah Cain is lost for the season — a huge blow to the running back unit that previously featured Journey Brown and Ricky Slade.

Penn State had possession of the ball for more than 40 minutes against Indiana with a pace that ranks 79th in terms of seconds per play. The offensive line did a tremendous job, ranking 10th in Sack Rate and 13th in PFF’s run-blocking grades.

Sean Clifford led an attack that produced 52% of available yards against the national average of 40%. Penn State also had 53% of drives result in first downs, proving the Nittany Lions have become sustainable chain movers under new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. The defense also did a great job of limiting the Hoosiers.

Indiana had just two runs longer than 12 yards and not a single rush longer than 20, while more than half of the Hoosiers’ rushing attempts were stuffed by the Penn State defense. The Nittany Lions’ back seven did just as well, limiting quarterback Michael Penix Jr. to just one pass longer than 20 yards. Penn State also posted the third-highest pass-rush grade, per PFF.


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Betting Analysis & Pick

The number of designed runs for both Clifford and Fields was more than expected in the first week of Big Ten play. The quarterbacks combined for 32 rushes for two offenses that average around 28 seconds per play.

Ohio State is an explosive offense, but Penn State’s defense continues to be one of the best in limiting chunk plays: Indiana had just one play that exceeded 20 yards against the Nittany Lions. The Buckeyes will certainly rack up their share of chunk plays, but Fields will take some hits.

Penn State finished third in PFF’s grading of pass rush — the one area Ohio State’s offensive line had problems. Nebraska posted a pass-rush grade of 56th, as the Buckeyes’ offensive line graded out 53rd in pass blocking.

The health of Chris Olave must be monitored while in concussion protocol, as the junior accounted for seven targets against Nebraska.

Our PRO Projections make this game Ohio State -9, which means at -12, there’s plenty of edge to the Penn State side. The Nittany Lions’ loss to Indiana enhanced the public appetite for Ohio State in this game. This has created an opportunity to back a Penn State team that will limit explosiveness and give Fields plenty of pressure.

Pick: Penn State +11.5 or better

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