Buckeyes might be rested, but they’re not better team

Commentary

In August, I picked the Nittany Lions to go 10-2 this season and have yet to pick against them so far.

My fellow NitWit, Mike Irwin, used to pull this regularly, rolling out an optimistic 10-2 or 11-1 preseason prognostication and then never quite coming up with the one or two losses when it came time to make the weekly picks.

It either wasn’t in his heart or the storyline changed.

This is the deepest I’ve gone into a season in many years without picking against PSU at least once, and you’d think this Saturday — at Ohio State — would be the one.

But I’m not so sure anymore as I think the storyline has changed.

You can certainly make a case for both teams, and I’m making one for Penn State.

Ohio State looks — repeat, looks — like it has regrouped from its second-week loss to Oklahoma and has steamrolled its last five opponents, winning by an average of 41 points and hanging 50-plus four times.

The Buckeyes are rested, and in his decorated career, Urban Meyer is an incredible 21-1 following bye weeks.

Ohio State also will be extremely motivated, not only because its path to the Big Ten championship game and College Football Playoff are negotiable but because the Buckeyes will be seeking revenge from last year’s stunning loss at Penn State.

Throw in the fact that at least three members of the Ohio State coaching staff at one time fashioned themselves as potential head coaches at Penn State — Larry Johnson, Greg Schiano and even Meyer himself during the year he stepped away from the game after a great run at Florida.

Since that special night a year ago when the Lions hung around just long enough for Marcus Allen and Grant Haley to work their magic, Penn State’s program has played to and seen itself on a new level.

The Lions are riding one of the best stretches in their history, having won 13 straight against Big Ten opponents, 16 of their last 17 overall and are playing with a swagger not seen since the days of the 1994 offense and the 1986 defense.

But what leads me to this pick is a nagging question of just how great Ohio State is. Is it?

How much better is J.T. Barrett today than he was as a freshman, and can he beat the Lions through the air?

While Ohio State has rolled Army, UNLV, Rutgers, Maryland and a Nebraska program in disarray, dating back to its loss to Penn State, the Buckeyes barely escaped Northwestern at home, survived at Michigan State 17-16, was trucked by Clemson 31-0 and embarrassed at home by an Oklahoma team, 31-16, that also has had its troubles.

The pattern here is the Buckeyes’ offense hasn’t lit up the better defenses — including Penn State’s — that it’s played.

The Nittany Lions will have to regroup from their emotional, whiteout victory over Michigan.

If they can do that, they’ve shown over the last season and a half, they’re better than the Buckeyes.

Penn State 28, Ohio State 24.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

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