Game of the Week

Columbus, Ohio - Penn State put an end to one long skid last weekend, halting a nine-game losing streak to one Big Ten nemesis to stay at the forefront of the national championship picture.

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If Joe Paterno's team has designs on staying there, it has a few more historical hurdles to overcome this week.

Oddsmakers from have made Penn State –2.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for Saturday’s game (Game Matchup). Current public betting information shows that 57% of bets for this game have been placed on Penn State –2.5 (View College Football bet percentages).

Sole possession of first place in the Big Ten will be on the line Saturday at Ohio Stadium, as the third-ranked Nittany Lions look to snap a 10-game road losing streak against ranked opponents and beat No. 10 Ohio State in Columbus for the first time since 1978.

Penn State (8-0, 4-0 Big Ten) was expected to give the Big Ten a third national power when it joined the conference in 1993, but the Nittany Lions haven't quite reached the level of Ohio State and Michigan. While the Buckeyes and Wolverines have combined to win or share 12 conference titles in the past 15 seasons, Penn State has won just two Big Ten championships.

That's largely been due to a lack of head-to-head success against the conference's premier programs. The Lions are just 9-20 against Ohio State (7-1, 4-0) and Michigan since joining the conference, and had lost nine straight to the Wolverines heading into last weekend's game in Happy Valley.

But after a sluggish start in which the Lions fell behind 17-7, Penn State scored the game's final 39 points in a 46-17 rout.

"Coach Paterno said something early during the week that we haven't faced "Big Time University," said quarterback Daryll Clark, who had one touchdown passing and two more on the ground. "We had it today ... and we were able to get the job done."

Clark is the Big Ten's second-highest rated passer (152.7) and has accounted for 19 total touchdowns after sitting behind quarterback Anthony Morelli for the past two seasons. Morelli graduated, but Clark - a native of Youngstown, Ohio - may not have been given the reins had Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor chosen to play at Penn State rather than Ohio State.

But Pryor, the most highly touted high school recruit in the country, picked Jim Tressel's Buckeyes over Michigan and Penn State, and after senior quarterback Todd Boeckman struggled, the freshman has taken over.

Pryor was up and down at first, and told Tressel to bench him if he struggled Saturday at Michigan State. Instead, he had his most efficient game, throwing for 116 yards and a touchdown and running for 72 yards and a score as the Buckeyes routed the then-No. 20 Spartans 45-7 for their fifth straight victory.

"When Terrelle is clicking, he can do a little bit of everything," said receiver Brian Robiskie, who caught Pryor's touchdown pass. "He's scary in the open field."

The Nittany Lions, meanwhile, are quite happy with Clark, who's leading the nation's seventh-highest scoring offense (45.4 points per game).

"To tell you the truth we have our own great quarterback," cornerback Tony Davis said. "(Pryor) chose to go to Ohio State."

Pryor's rise has coincided with the return of running back Chris "Beanie" Wells to full health. After missing three games - including Ohio State's 35-3 loss at USC on Sept. 13 - with a foot injury, Wells has run for 508 yards in four games since his return.

He had 133 yards on 25 carries last season in the Buckeyes' 37-17 win in Happy Valley last season. With a Penn State defense that struggled to stop Michigan on the ground - the Wolverines ran for 202 yards - he'll likely get plenty of carries on Saturday.

Led by Clark and running back Evan Royster, who leads the Big Ten in yards per carry (7.7), the Lions have the 12th-ranked offense in the nation (482.1 ypg), but they'll have a bit of history to overcome in Columbus. Penn State hasn't won at Ohio Stadium in 30 years, and is 0-7 there since joining the conference.

The Lions have also lost 10 straight on the road to AP Top 25 opponents dating to Oct. 12, 2002. Two of those losses have been to No. 1-ranked Ohio State teams, and Clark is thrilled at the opportunity to start a college game in his home state for the first time.

"It's everything that you dream about when you come to a Big Ten school and you're from Ohio," he said. "With everything working and the weapons we have, we're very confident we can go in there and weather the storm and actually get a win."

Ohio State has won 12 of its last 13 conference home games against ranked opponents.

Top Betting Trends:
All games in this series since 1992
OHIO ST is 9-5 against the spread versus PENN ST since 1992
OHIO ST is 10-5 straight up against PENN ST since 1992
8 of 15 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games over the last 3 seasons
OHIO ST is 2-0 against the spread versus PENN ST over the last 3 seasons 
OHIO ST is 2-0 straight up against PENN ST over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 2 games in this series have gone OVER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
All games played at OHIO ST since 1992
OHIO ST is 7-0 against the spread versus PENN ST since 1992
OHIO ST is 7-0 straight up against PENN ST since 1992
5 of 7 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL since 1992
Games played at OHIO ST over the last 3 seasons.
OHIO ST is 1-0 against the spread versus PENN ST over the last 3 seasons 
OHIO ST is 1-0 straight up against PENN ST over the last 3 seasons 
1 of 1 games in this series have gone UNDER THE TOTAL over the last 3 seasons
Key Player Injuries
[WR] Jordan Norwood missed last 2 games, upgraded to probable. - Hamstring
[TE] Andrew Quarless injured last game, %27?%27 - Ankle - 10/05/08
[TE] Mickey Shuler left last game, %27?%27 - Ankle - 10/05/08
[OL] Doug Klopacz is out for the season - ACL - 09/24/08
[DL] Mike Lucian missed last game, %27?%27 - Abdominal - 10/05/08
[OL] Ako Poti missed last game, %27?%27 - Knee - 10/05/08
[DT] Phillip Taylor dismissed from team. - Dismissed - 08/01/08
[DT] Chris Baker dismissed from team. - Dismissed - 08/01/08
[DT] Devon Still is out for the season. - Ankle - 09/10/08
[LB] Jerome Hayes out for the season - ACL - 09/07/08
[S] Nick Sukay is expected to miss entire season - Foot - 09/01/08
[RB] Daniel Herron injured last game, expected to miss - Concussion - 10/0
(!) [RB] Beanie Wells is probable, but not 100% healthy. - Toe - 10/08/08
[WR] Dane Sanzenbacher is downgraded to expected to miss - Head - 10/07/08
[TE] Rory Nicol is downgraded to expected to miss - Ankle - 10/07/08
[OL] J.B. Shugarts missed last game, %27?%27 - Shoulder - 10/06/08
[LB] Austin Spitler expected to miss - Concussion - 10/06/08
[CB] Andre Amos is expected to miss the rest of the season. - Knee - 10/01

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Posted: 10/22/08 12:05 AM

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