After falling behind 14-0 in the first quarter after a blazing fast start by No. 2 Penn State (7-1, 4-1 Big Ten), No. 6 Ohio State (7-1, 5-0 Big Ten) pulled together a 19-3 fourth quarter against one of the best second-half teams in the nation to capture a monster 39-38 win in the Big Ten race, and the College Football Playoff race. J.T. Barrett was incredible with 33-of-39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns and 95 rushing yards.
After Penn State had a 10-play drive to tack on what seemed to be a pivotal field goal to take a 38-27 lead, Ohio State and Barrett would not be stopped. The Buckeyes scored two touchdowns on their next two possessions while the defense put the clamps down on the Nittany Lions. Penn State had two straight possessions with negative yardage with the game still on the line, and Ohio State made them pay for it.
For Penn State, it was reminiscent of the Rose Bowl against USC, where a game that looked to have a favorable ending coming together came crashing down without a killer instinct to make a key play or two on either side of the football to close the book. It was a tough loss to take for Penn State, but how damaging it ultimately ends up being will now be left in the hands of the College Football Playoff selection committee starting next week.
Saquon Barkley returned the game’s opening kickoff 97 yards for a touchdown and he had a 36-yard touchdown run in the first half as Penn State was making the big plays while Ohio State was dominating the offensive yardage in the box score. Ohio State bottled up Barkley for the majority of the game outside of those two plays as he ended the day with 44 rushing yards and 23 receiving yards (and 105 kickoff return yards). Barkley should still be heading to New York, but he will very likely have some company from the Big Ten joining him as Barrett should be in the conversation now as well.
Ohio State out-gained Penn State 529-283 and racked up 27 first downs to Penn State’s 17. That helped wear Penn State down and to overcome two turnovers and 10 penalties for Ohio State. Ohio State also had two interceptions of Trace McSorley in the end zone overturned by replay review. Both overturned picks were led by Penn State touchdowns, including one that occurred on the same play. It was a game that Penn State shouldn’t have won and the fates tried hard to prevent Ohio State from winning. But college football is goofy sometimes, and then things like Penn State squandering an 11-point lead in the final five minutes happens.
Ohio State now owns the inside track to the Big Ten championship game with a head-to-head win against Penn State. Ohio State would have to lose twice if Penn State wins their remaining games in order for the Nittany Lions to get a chance to return to the Big Ten championship game. And with the playoff rankings about to be unveiled, Ohio State should feel confident they will be ranked in the top four from the selection committee.
Ohio State will have to keep the momentum going next week with a road game at Iowa. Penn State will look to rebound next week on the road against Michigan State. The Spartans dropped an overtime game at Northwestern and will also be looking for a rebound win. There is still a lot of football to be played, but Ohio State is rolling right now.