Colin: Some potent Ohio State offenses have struggled in the hostile Happy Valley environment. You have been there before and are headed there again this weekend. What makes it such a tough place to score points?
Baver:The noise level is insane….parts of the stadium will vibrate at times when the Nits have it goin’. It’s been complete mayhem for the three games I’ve attended there, 2005, 2014 and 2016 - all white-outs. Their fans can be taken out of the game, as any crowd can if their team is getting hammered. But if they are in the game, the PSU fans sustain their loudness for long periods of time. It’s just so hard to stay in rhythm on offense in that environment. I know Ohio St wasn’t prepared for it in ’05, scoring only 10 pts when they had a high-powered offense.
Colin: On Saturday, If Haskins Jr plays as well against Penn State as JT Barrett did last year, will he become the Heisman front runner?
Baver: Tua’s got a big lead right now and is going to be tough to pass unless Bama gets upset, and that may not even matter. I see he’s favored against the field right now by some sportsbooks, but Dwayne has the 2nd best odds. Haskins has by far the best skillset I have seen in terms of a passer that has played here. But we’ve seen so many good QBs fade here (Schlichter after his sophomore year, Troy’s infamous last game against Florida, & JT’s passing in late ’16 and ’17), so I’m trying not to get too far ahead of myself with Dwayne.
Colin: Can Penn State hope to hold the Buckeyes to under the 39 points they scored last year in Columbus?
Baver: 39 sounds about right to me for an over/under on Ohio St’s pts scored. But I worry that OSU might not be able to spell Dobbins. I know Urban said Weber will play, but I’m not so sure. With the pace this Buckeye offense is running at, they need both Weber and Dobbins Saturday night in Beaver Stadium. Still, Ohio State has a lot of weapons, and a gunslinger at QB. And I would argue that TCU has a better defense than Penn State’s.
Colin: Conversely, can this Bosa-less defense hold the Lions to under the 38 they scored against the Bucks in 2017?
Baver: Do you know how many tackles the three starting Buckeye LBs had against Tulane? Zero. Unreal. I have no confidence in this LB crew, so the OSU D-line and DBs have to get it done. Chase Young needs to come up big. And the so-called 50/50 balls that McSorley throws up? Those passes are completed every time I’m watching…which is why anyone calling them 50/50 balls is selling McSorely and his WRs short. 38 pts by the Nits Saturday? That’s another number that again sounds about right to me.
Colin: Nationally, where do you think the OSU v PSU game fits among much watch college rivalries?
Baver: It’s not there yet, but as long as Urban and James Franklin hang around, this game is going to huge, and the rivalry is going grow big time.
Colin: Final thoughts and prediction?
Baver: I’ll give the slightest advantage to Ohio State here, as they have fewer personnel questions and better depth. But many of OSU advantages are somewhat offset by the edge Penn State gains in playing Ohio State at night in Beaver Stadium in a white-out. Dwayne hasn’t showed any signs of getting in a funk on the big stage, but this will be unlike anything he has played in. I tend to think he will again hold up well as long as the pass protection is at least adequate. I do worry about Miles Sanders and KJ Hamler possibly both coming up big Saturday night for the Penn State offense (and Hamler as on returns). Hamler is 170 pounds soaking wet, but the kid is electric.
The last two gms have decided by a total of 4 pts and the ’14 gm there went double-OT. I tend to think it will be another one of those games.
Prediction: Ohio State 42 Penn State 40.
Colin: Know you are traveling but any other games you will be checking in on this weekend?
Baver: The spread is higher than I thought it would be with Notre Dame currently a 5½ pt favorite over Stanford. But the timing of this game really gives the Irish a big advantage. I think Notre Dame has been waiting on Stanford, while the Cardinal had that emotional comeback win in Eugene last Saturday night. I don’t think they will have much left in the tank, and really like Notre Dame at home in this spot. And I really like the move to Ian Book at QB.
I’ll leave it at that, other than picking OSU to win, but not covering in a very tight game. And we’re going to see a lot of fireworks Saturday night. Can’t wait.