One of the most highly anticipated college football matchups of the season has arrived. No. 7 Penn State is set to face off against No. 3 Ohio State in a game that holds significance not only for the Big Ten East this year but also for the future of both programs.
This game is more than just a single event; it’s a pivotal moment that will impact the trajectory of these two college football powerhouses. Penn State has made significant strides in recent years, emerging from the middle tier of the Big Ten and establishing itself as a team knocking on the door of the elite. However, it’s worth noting that Penn State has been a perennial bridesmaid when it comes to the College Football Playoff.
In contrast, Ohio State is a storied program with a rich tradition of success. It has consistently competed at the highest level of college football, securing Playoff appearances, Big Ten titles, and even a national championship in the past decade. Nonetheless, recent seasons have raised questions about Ohio State falling short of expectations, especially due to losses against Michigan.
Now, let’s delve into the contrasting perspectives of what Saturday’s game signifies for each of these programs.
For Ohio State, there is immense pressure riding on this game. The expectations are sky-high, not just for the team but also for its head coach, Ryan Day. Ohio State’s fans and program demand top-tier performance, and the prospect of falling to third place in the Big Ten East is unacceptable. While there are still critical matchups ahead, including facing Michigan, a loss at home in this game would set a concerning tone for the Buckeyes. The prevailing sentiment would be that Ohio State is struggling to maintain its dominance in the conference.
This Ohio State team carries the weight of expectations with a fairly experienced roster. With some key players, such as Marvin Harrison Jr. and Cade Stover, reaching their senior years, the future composition of the team is uncertain. In contrast, Penn State fields a team with a substantial number of sophomores, including emerging star Drew Allar at quarterback. The burden of expectation falls heavier on Ohio State’s shoulders.
For Penn State, this game presents a significant opportunity. While it has not yet ascended to the highest echelon of college football, the pressure to do so is not as intense as it is for Ohio State. The 11-2 season last year was considered a major success, aligned with the program’s expectations. The next step for the Nittany Lions is to secure victories against top-tier teams like Ohio State and Michigan. A win in this game would propel Penn State into the conversation for a College Football Playoff berth, a milestone it has been striving to achieve.
For Penn State, the youth of the team, with prominent sophomores like Drew Allar, Kaytron Allen, Nicholas Singleton, and Abdul Carter, suggests that its best days may still lie ahead. It’s a golden opportunity for Penn State to defeat a team it has not managed to beat since 2016 and elevate its status in college football.
It’s worth noting that Penn State has often been the bridesmaid in the four-team College Football Playoff era. A win in this game could set the stage for a remarkable season. However, if Penn State’s season follows a similar pattern to the previous year, with its only losses coming against Ohio State and Michigan, questions about the team’s ability to defeat these top-tier opponents will inevitably arise.
Both coaches’ records add an interesting dimension to the matchup. Ryan Day boasts an impressive 51-6 record as a coach, with only Chris Peterson winning more games to start his head coaching career over the last 50 years. Yet, two of those losses were to Michigan in the past two seasons, leading to doubts about Ohio State’s ability to win pivotal games. On the other hand, James Franklin has a record of 0-9 on the road against top-10 teams, albeit as the underdog in those matchups. A loss on Saturday for Penn State would fuel questions about the team’s ability to win critical games.
In the bigger picture, a win on Saturday could significantly bolster Ohio State’s résumé. Victories over Notre Dame and Penn State, both ranked in the top 10 at the time of their respective games, would position Ohio State as a top contender. The prospect of Ohio State opening the College Football Playoff rankings at No. 1 is realistic, particularly considering its dominant performances and the continuous improvement of its young quarterback, Kyle McCord.
Conversely, a Penn State win presents intriguing possibilities. Assuming the Big Ten East winner also triumphs in the Big Ten title game, Penn State would have two opportunities for a Playoff berth. Beating Ohio State or Michigan is the crucial first step, followed by a potential Big Ten championship game victory. Even if Penn State were to win against Ohio State but lose to Michigan, the path to the Big Ten title game would remain open, with Ohio State aiming to defeat Michigan after a Penn State victory.
In essence, both teams are vying to avoid tiebreakers. A Penn State win is an opportunity to elevate the program’s status and compete for a Playoff spot. This game carries significant weight for both schools and has the potential to reshape the landscape of college football.
In conclusion, Saturday’s game is a monumental clash that extends beyond a single contest, with implications for the future of both Penn State and Ohio State in the college football landscape.