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Which Ohio State matchup is tougher: Penn State or Michigan?

Jordan Fuller-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football
Ohio State safety Jordan Fuller and the Buckeyes are finally in the closing stretch of the regular season. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

Question Of The Day

Which Ohio State matchup is tougher: Penn State or Michigan?

The speculation, debate and conversations about Ohio State never end, and Lettermen Row is always ready to dive into the discussions. All week long, senior writer Austin Ward will field topics about the Buckeyes submitted by readers and break down anything that’s on the minds of the Best Damn Fans in the Land. Have a question that needs to be tackled, like the one today about the Ohio State and the closing stretch against Penn State and Michigan? Send it in right here — and check back daily for the answers.

Essentially the entire season has included some variation of finding ways to suggest Ohio State is about to be tested for the first time.

And every week, the Buckeyes have passed with relative ease, rolling through 10 consecutive blowouts and establishing themselves as the most complete team in the nation.

(By the way, that’s not anywhere near as simple as Ohio State has made it look, because it has faced a quality schedule and handled it better than the average program according to virtually every metric available at this point. Letdown performances, upsets and inconsistency are a fabric of this crazy sport, and the run the Buckeyes are on is truly remarkable and historic.)

So, will the next two games be any different? And if one of the two big-time opponents to close the regular season is capable of giving the Buckeyes a four-quarter battle, which is better suited for it?

Binjimen Victor-Ohio State-Buckeyes-Ohio State football

Ohio State wide receiver Binjimen Victor played a key role in the win over Penn State last year. (Birm/Lettermen Row)

On paper, the answer is almost certainly Penn State. The Nittany Lions have been recruiting at a high level and appear to have the best chance of trying to matchup with Ohio State’s incredible depth on both sides of the ball, bringing the second-ranked offense and fourth-ranked defense in the Big Ten with them to the Horseshoe this weekend. Penn State is balanced, James Franklin has a track record of playing competitive games with the Buckeyes — and even the motivation factor might be higher with the East Division title up for grabs on Saturday.

The Game is always going to stand on its own as a challenge that will have the full attention for Ohio State. And for Michigan, it’s effectively the only shot Jim Harbaugh has at salvaging the season and making it something worth celebrating in Ann Arbor. But other than the rivalry-game factor and Ohio State having to go on the road, it’s hard to envision the Wolverines having a better shot than Penn State at surprising the two-time defending Big Ten champs.

That once-vaunted Michigan defense was famously torched by the Buckeyes a year ago. The Wolverines still don’t appear to have done much to upgrade the offense. And all of the momentum in the series is on the side of Ohio State, which is operating at a truly elite level right now.

The truth is Ohio State might not really face a worthy test until the College Football Playoff the way it’s rolling right now. But if it’s going to happen in the Big Ten, Penn State would appear to be the more likely challenger to the throne.

Miss any previous editions of Question of the Day? Catch up right here.

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Austin Ward is Lettermen Row's senior writer covering Ohio State football and basketball. The award-winning journalist has covered the Buckeyes since 2012, spending five of those seasons working for ESPN after previous stints at the Casper Star-Tribune and Knoxville News Sentinel.

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