By Joel Norman, Originally published on Sports Heaven
t’d be one thing to lose to Michigan.
It’d be another to lose to Michigan State (in any year but 2016).
But a loss to Penn State? That’s brutal.
The scary thing for the Buckeyes, is that they did everything that they should have done to win, except finish with a victory. The Nittany Lions’ offense, which averages 375 yards per game, was limited to 276 yards on Saturday. Penn State had only scored seven points entering the fourth quarter.
Give credit to the Buckeye defense. It stood tall and shut down the Nittany Lions.
Running back Saquon Barkley, who had scored at least one touchdown in five of the first six games, was held scoreless on Saturday. Quarterback Trace McSorley had his worst completion percentage of the season (34.8) and only completed eight passes.
Offensively, Ohio State played well. They rushed for 168 yards as a team and added 245 yards receiving. Quarterback J.T. Barrett has his second-best passing game of the season in terms of yards thrown for (245).
The Buckeyes did everything right offensively, except scoring enough.
Tyler Durbin kicked two field goals and Barrett threw a touchdown in the second quarter (but Durbin missed the extra point). Curtis Samuel dashed for a score in the third and the Buckeyes got a safety off of a high snap on a Penn State punt attempt landed in it own end zone.
That was it for Ohio State.
21 points for the nation’s No. 2 team.
If Durbin makes a 48-yard field goal attempt with 4:39 remaining in the game, the Buckeyes probably hang on. Heck, if the kick goes wide, they likely still get the win.
Instead, the kick gets blocked and returned for a touchdown.
24-21, Penn State.
No more No. 2. The Buckeyes have dropped to No. 6.in the Associated Press poll.
Let’s take a moment to explain how rare an Ohio State lose is.
Since Urban Meyer became head coach in 2012, the Buckeyes are 56-5. Meyer went undefeated in 2012 and has completed back-to-back seasons with only one loss, the first being a national championship year for Ohio State.
The loss to the Nittany Lions was Meyer’s first loss on the road in five years at Ohio State. Meyer-coached Buckeye teams now have a 20-1 record on the road.
Buckeye fans can find solace; Meyer’s Buckeyes are 2-1 after losses (the Orange Bowl loss to Clemson in 2014 was the final game of the 2013 season).
Problem is, the schedule doesn’t get easier.
Northwestern and Maryland, though underdogs in both games against Ohio State, are respectable thus far. Northwestern started 1-3, but has three straight wins over Iowa, Michigan State, and Indiana. Meanwhile, Maryland is quietly 5-2.
Michigan State has lost five straight, but beat Ohio State at Ohio Stadium last season to end the Buckeyes’ championship repeat dreams.
The games against Nebraska and Michigan, needless to say, are huge.
The Michigan game could make or break the season. If the Wolverines are still undefeated heading into the Nov. 26 matchup and the Buckeyes win every game leading up to it, the game could decide who heads to the College Football Playoff, assuming the winner also wins the Big 10 Championship Game.
Michigan hasn’t beaten Ohio State since 2011, but neither Jim Harbaugh nor Meyer were coaching their respective schools. Columbus will be wild that day.
If Ohio State can lose to Penn State, it can lose to anyone. However, it was a missed field away from beating the now-No. 24 Nittany Lions. Don’t forget that the Buckeyes have wins over Oklahoma and Wisconsin, both on the road, on their 2016 resume.
The Penn State loss looks like a blip on the radar, but for Ohio State to keep its College Football Playoff hopes, it has to convincingly win out. That means double-digit victories over Northwestern, Maryland, and Michigan State as well as wins by any means over Nebraska and Michigan.
Let’s see what Ohio State is made of.