College Gameday Predictions

Steve O Speak

By contributing Fanspeak writer Geoff Nelowet

(16) Ohio State at (11) Penn State

The Ohio State Buckeyes have two losses on the season, and they have yet to play Penn State and fourth-ranked Iowa. Some may see Ohio State’s chances of making a BCS game as slim to none. Buckeye’s quarterback Terrelle Pryor would disagree, and so would the entire Buckeye fan base. Ohio State is facing an unprecedented opportunity – albeit an immensely difficult one. Ohio State will play Penn State this weekend, with the winner getting sole possession of second place in the Big 10. Ohio State will then come home to play Iowa the following week. Of course, if Penn State defeats Ohio State, and then the Buckeyes take down Iowa next week, the Nittany Lions will be in great position to be in a BCS game.

Neither team can afford to lose this game if they expect to play in a BCS bowl, so it is safe to say that both team’s season rests on this game. The Penn State fan base would not be more thrilled if the Nittany Lions handed the Buckeyes their third crippling loss of the season, as Pryor – a Pennsylvania native – burned Penn State during the high school recruiting process by selecting Ohio State after delaying his decision by 42 days. Penn State fans are undeniably bitter, and Pryor shouldn’t expect a warm homecoming.

Penn State’s sole loss this season came at home against undefeated Iowa. Should Penn State win this weekend, they would have a resume of BCS caliber, but Ohio State will ostensibly bring their best performance of the season, as this game is pivotal for both teams. Penn State is led by senior quarterback Daryll Clark. Clark was a pre-season Heisman pick, and he would easily be in consideration had he led his team past Iowa early in the season. Junior Evan Royster leads the Nittany Lions in rushing with 5.9 yards per carry on the season.

Ohio State is, of course, led by Pryor and his dual-threat ability. Ohio State’s success hinges entirely on Pryor’s play, and the Buckeyes’ two losses this season came when Pryor played poorly and turned the ball over. If Pryor can play turnover free, the Buckeyes will win, but that can be a tall order for Pryor against a top-tier defense such as Penn State’s.

Pryor will make exciting plays, but he will also make mistakes. Opposite, Daryll Clark’s steady play will guide Penn State to a win, and the Nittany Lions defense will capitalize on Pryor’s inconsistencies. It will be a close game, but the home team will prevail. Final score: Penn State 26 Ohio State 17

(9) LSU at (3) Alabama

The LSU Tigers have won seven of their last nine match ups against the Alabama Crimson Tide, but they are coming off an overtime loss at home a year ago. LSU may have dominated this series over the last decade, but this Crimson Tide team – as ranking would indicate – is much stronger than in years past, and that can be attributed to third-year head coach Nick Saban. As many know, LSU is quite familiar with Saban, as he was their previous head coach, and he led them to a national title in 2003. In that sense, these two teams know each other very well, and this is much more than a cavalier SEC conference game – this is a bona fide rivalry that gains steam each season, and this year’s contest is driven by not only conference implications, but the winner will be a serious national title contender.

Undefeated Alabama is already in the national title picture, and LSU is on the cusp of that conversation with their only loss coming to top-ranked Florida. Neither team, though, can afford to lose this game because it will decide both position in the conference and the polls. Alabama is a major favorite, as they are higher ranked, and they are playing at home. They are coming off a narrow 12-10 win over unranked Tennessee, so many pollsters – and the BCS computers – are skeptical of ‘Bama’s rank.

LSU, on the other hand, has proven that they are a top-ten team that is very much under the radar. They have won four difficult conference games thus far, and their loss to Florida was highly contested and visibly physical. The Tigers know how to win, and they have shown that they can win on the road, as they did against Georgia earlier this year.

Neither team has a viable Heisman Trophy candidate, nor do they have a quarterback that consistently plays at a high level. These are two well-rounded, talented teams, but they lack star power at the most pivotal position. They can clearly survive with tough defense and effective offense, but a low-scoring affair seems imminent. The winner of this game will almost certainly be playing against the Florida Gators for the SEC title and a trip to a BCS game. Expect the best from each team in a defensive effort. Final score: Alabama 17 LSU 10.

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