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David Briggs | The Blade | October 23, 2017

Penn State vs. Ohio State shaping up to be Game of the Year

  Quarterback Trace McSorley has No. 2 Penn State firing on all cylinders heading into its matchup with the Buckeyes.

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- As Jim Harbaugh prepared to board the last flight home from his Michigan honeymoon late Saturday night, Penn State fans set off on their own flight of fancy.

The cries thundered through the student section.

Something about wanting some school in Alabama.

To which a fan seated outside the press box replied, "Not really!"

First things first is that big red -- sorry, scarlet -- machine in Ohio.

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And the early prediction here is Penn State doesn't want much of the Buckeyes, either.

In any case, get ready. The second-ranked Nittany Lions' 42-13 whiteout whitewashing of Michigan sets up a big one Saturday in Columbus.

With a Wolverines team that is now 6-5 in its past 11 games and tied with Rutgers for fourth in the Big Ten East Division out of the picture, circle second-ranked Penn State (7-0, 4-0) at No. 6 Ohio State (6-1, 4-0) as the game of the college football season.

For the Buckeyes, all that's at stake is a burning score to settle, an inside track to the Big Ten title and a playoff berth, and the big-game legacy of quarterback J.T. Barrett -- not to mention the big-stage bona fides of coach Urban Meyer.

Should be fun.

Ohio State opened as a seven-point favorite, and because Las Vegas knows best, it makes you wonder how much of Penn State's muscle-flexing here was more a reflection of its shine or Michigan's blackout.

Probably both.

Start with the Wolverines. If the Harbaugh pitchfork crowd needs to get real, the $9-million-per-year coach is not above criticism. Anyone else catch the photo floating around of defensive back Lavert Hill giving Penn State fans a double-middle finger salute after the game? That's about how Michigan supporters feel about Harbaugh's offense. It's broken, from the cut-rate offensive line to the non-existent quarterback development to cave-wall play-calling. Like Meyer last year, Harbaugh must take a hard look this offseason at his offensive staff, mainly coordinator and line coach Tim Drevno and passing game coordinator Pep Hamilton.

But give credit to Penn State.

To think it was last September the Nittany Lions lost 49-10 at Michigan to fall to 16-14 in James Franklin's first two-plus seasons in Happy Valley. They have since won 16 of their past 17 games, including a 24-21 win against OSU and the throttling Saturday that for the Wolverines must have felt like they were looking in the mirror -- in the sense the image was reversed. The Penn State offense electrified, from Heisman-hounding running back Saquon Barkley to enterprising quarterback Trace McSorley to his catch-everything receivers.

If I'm Ohio State, McSorley -- who passed for 282 yards and ran for three touchdowns against Michigan -- worries me most. He's just the kind of dual-threat quarterback that confounds its aggressive style of defense. (See: Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield.)

The Buckeyes should get a big swing Saturday.

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I just think a freshly confident Barrett and their humming offense (I know, I know, who have they played?), the bye week spent plotting their retribution (Meyer is a career 11-2 against opponents that beat his team the year before), and the rattling Horseshoe will be the difference.

This article is written by David Briggs from The Blade and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

 

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