The Ohio State Buckeyes return to Ohio Stadium to host the Penn State Nittany Lions in a Big Ten heavyweight showdown.
Buckeye football is back after having a week off on bye and it couldn’t return in a bigger way. This match up has been circled on the calendars of both teams since before this season even began and the anticipation has risen with each coming week. With game day quickly approaching, both sides are more eager than ever to get this show on the road.
ESPN’s College GameDay will be present in Columbus to preview this match up featuring two of the top teams in the Big Ten as well as two of the top ten teams in the country. This will be the Buckeyes’ third appearance on College GameDay in this season alone.
The Bucks will be the host in this meeting with the Nittany Lions who defeated them just one year ago in Happy Valley. However, this grudge match has a few more aspects to it than just avenging that loss.
Originally, the loss at Penn State had seemingly crushed the Buckeyes’ playoff hopes. The Nittany Lions had equaled the Bucks in the Big Ten standings and gained the head to head tiebreaker with that victory. Combine that with the Nittany Lions’ cupcake schedule to end the season and the Bucks were looking hopeless at getting a spot into the Big Ten Championship which would be their staircase into the playoffs.
The Bucks did have a lifeline of hope that they could find their way into the Big Ten Championship via three-way tiebreaker in the Big Ten East at first. Though, this came with a catch. This three-way tiebreaker relied on the Bucks defeating undefeated TTUN in the season finale.
This resulted in, you guessed it, a complete let down as TTUN mucked it all up by falling to Iowa which eliminated the chance of a three-way tiebreaker and ultimately the Bucks’ conference championship hopes. TTUN’s failure to make their failure derail the Bucks’ route to the playoffs made it that much sweeter when watching coach Jim Harbaugh whine on national television about how his team should have made the playoffs.
The Bucks no longer controlled their own destiny so they could only cross their fingers every weekend that the Nittany Lions would stumble. Both teams won out in the Big Ten which led to the Nittany Lions representing the east in the Big Ten Championship game. Penn State finished their business by winning the conference championship which they expected to secure themselves a spot in the College Football Playoff in the process.
Despite their accomplishment, the Nittany Lions ended up falling short as the committee placed the Bucks ahead of them and into the playoffs instead. Conference championships were said to have held valuable weight yet the Bucks succeeded in gaining the spot without it. This has certainly lit a fire under the Nittany Lions who undoubtedly have the Bucks at number one on their list of teams to take down.
Now there are two scenarios to consider when weighing the story lines for either side: Nittany Lions getting snubbed from the playoffs in favor of the Bucks and the Bucks getting beaten by the Nittany Lions to end their conference championship hopes last season. With all things considered, it begs the question of which side will come into this game with the bigger chip on their shoulder?
The Buckeyes will be bringing everything to the table in this game. This includes not only their best effort but also their best looks. The Bucks will be taking the field in style with Nike gray alternate jerseys complete with all-red cleats branded from Ohio’s recent champion himself: LeBron James. The stadium will also be taking on a look of its own as it will be all black attire in the stands. Not only will this boost the already intimidating environment in the Shoe, it will make it extra spooky as well.
There is no doubt that the Shoe will be rocking on Saturday as the Bucks look to once again assert themselves as the best in the Big Ten. With that being said, the Bucks will be sure to cover all their bases in the Big Ten this season to ensure that the road to the conference championship is under their control and not reliant on anyone else.
The season will be on the line for both sides once again in this meeting as the final stretch draws closer. That fateful game in Happy Valley would have likely ended in a victory for the Bucks if it weren’t for a special teams meltdown resulting in a Nittany Lions score to ultimately decide the game. The Bucks will surely have that in mind when they take the field against an opponent they haven’t lost to in back-to-back games since 1980.