Penn State-Ohio State Reflections
In many games, there always to seems to be the one moment that qualifies as a major turning point. In this game, that moment came early in the 4th quarter. With Penn State nursing a somewhat comfortable 15 point lead, the defense stepped up and forced a fumble. The ball was recovered by Penn State inside Ohio State territory. With the Penn State offense in possession of the ball, they had a short field to work with and a big opportunity to make it a three possession game. What transpired next was one of the worst drives the team had the entire night. The offensive line broke down and they broke down badly. The Ohio State defensive line blew up the possession and forced Penn State to a drive totaling -1 yards. Shortly after, in what seemed like a special team’s breakdown, an Ohio State defender went untouched and blocked the punt. That left the Penn State defense facing Ohio State with a short field of their own. Two plays later JT Barrett found the end zone making it 35-27. In just a few minutes, the Penn State lead swung from a possible three possession lead to just one possession. This not only changed the complexion of the game but it also gave all the momentum Ohio State needed to slice through Penn State defense and complete the comeback.
This was certainly a major factor in why Penn State lost the game but a greater issue was highlighted in the loss. As was the case in the Rose Bowl against USC, Penn State struggled to close out the game. These struggles come back and bite them in the biggest of games which points to their struggling offensive line. In the waning minutes of these big games, Penn State isn’t able to form into an offense that can run the clock down. The offense is built on their big play ability and when it comes time to bleed clock, the offensive line isn’t good enough to have a sustained drive on the ground to accomplish that. And so their lead crumbles at the most inopportune time.
With a bit of reflections to the game itself above, I turn to a bigger picture argument: Penn State is not eliminated from playoff contention. On yesterday’s College Gameday broadcast, much was said how this Penn State-Ohio State game was a virtual playoff elimination game. The committee has made it clear that they refuse to let a two-loss team in so from that perspective it was a playoff elimination game for Ohio State and Ohio State only. Despite that, much of the national college football media seems to think that Penn State’s loss has eliminated them. They lost a one-point game at the Horseshoe to the No. 6 ranked team in the country. Their record drops to 7-1 but that doesn’t eliminate them. Clemson lost to a 4-4 Syracuse team, Oklahoma lost to ranked Iowa State team at home, Notre Dame lost a one-point game to top ranked Georgia team at home, and even Ohio State lost to Oklahoma at home. All of those teams and a few other one loss teams are still in the playoff mix. With being said, I am aware that many other factors are considered and there is still a few weeks left in the season for anything to happen. However, at this point right now, 7-1 Penn State shouldn’t be and isn’t out of the race yet.