- Marcus Hartman
There’s still more to say about the instant classic Ohio State and Penn State staged Saturday.
Here are five takeaways from the Buckeyes’ incredible comeback win and what it means for the College Football Playoff.
1. As I mentioned on Twitter, my original column from Ohio State’s 39-38 win over Penn State was quite different than what I ended up writing.
I was going to praise the offensive coaches for fixing most of the problems from the last few big games and J.T. Barrett for doing a pretty good job of running the revamped attack while pointing out the rest of the offense and the special teams let them down.
Early in the game, Ohio State had at least a couple of dropped passes and way too many pre-snap penalties for that type of stage against that type of opponent.
But Barrett pressed on, and the rest of his guys came around. They cut out the penalties, started catching everything… and the rest is history.
2. The Nittany Lions have enough offense, I thought a 14-point cushion would be enough, let alone 18, no matter what the Buckeyes did in the last three quarters.
And as the game wore on, it looked exceedingly like that would be the case.
The Nittany Lions scored twice after Ohio State started to close the gap in the second half, and it was fair to think that offense was just too good to shut down when pretty much perfection was the only acceptable outcome for the Ohio State defense.
At the same time, the Buckeyes did some good things offensively in the first three quarters, but did anyone really think they would go three for three in scoring opportunities in the fourth quarter? No way.
3. It’s tempting to say the game was even after the opening kickoff, but that’s not true.
Ohio State was the better team. The Buckeyes dominated the line of scrimmage, as expected. The Ohio State defense not only contained Saquon Barkley aside from one play, they pushed him back as much or more than they let him go forward. That exceeded expectations.
The secondary gave up some plays, but that’s a credit to Penn State’s receivers and quarterback Trace McSorley.
The Ohio State offense kept swinging, and eventually Barrett delivered the knockout blow to Marcus Baugh.
Having a deeper roster paid off in the end for Urban Meyer.
4. So now what is there to worry about?
Well, back to that dead column. I was also wondering if Meyer had lost his mojo.
His specialties are supposed to be offense, special teams and motivation.
Fixes to the offense have been attributed to new assistants Kevin Wilson and Ryan Day while the special teams continue to disappoint.
No matter how it ended, the Buckeyes didn’t really seem ready to play.
Sometimes that’s out of a coach’s control. Players have emotional ups and downs just like anybody else.
But Meyer’s made a career out of being able to control those better than most, so maybe this still bears watching. Or maybe Ohio State turned a corner late Saturday afternoon.
The rest of the regular season schedule will be more challenging mentally than physically. Michigan, Michigan State, Iowa and Illinois are all awful offensively, but Ohio State can’t just roll the helmets out there and win (well, that might be good enough to beat the Fighting Illini).
5. Don’t print those playoff tickets just yet.
I’m not sure what the first official College Football Playoff rankings will look like, but it doesn’t matter at all.
The only thing those are good for is getting an idea about how the committee views a team’s resumes so far, and those change a lot in the final month.
I see about 12 teams left with any shot at the playoff, though some of those teams are going to knock each other out and total chaos could bring some others back into the picture.
One-loss Notre Dame and Oklahoma teams could be trouble for Ohio State even if the Buckeyes win out because the Fighting Irish will have a tremendous resume if they are 11-1 and the Sooners beat the Buckeyes at Ohio Stadium.
Assuming there is an undefeated SEC champion, the conversation between one-loss chams of the ACC and Big Ten might not go Ohio State’s way.
Let’s worry about that later, though.
I have a feeling there’s lots of fun left in this season, from Columbus and beyond.