Judging by the final score, Saturday night’s primetime matchup in Happy Valley looks like it was a close game between arguably the two best teams in the Big Ten on paper coming into the season.
In reality, the chasm between Ohio State and whomever is the second best team in the league seems to be growing larger by the day.
The Buckeyes earned a 38-25 win at Penn State on Saturday, marking their 10th consecutive victory against a ranked team on the road – a remarkable feat. But the truth is the game wasn’t particularly close and most Ohio State fans didn’t have many nervous moments.
For example, the Ohio State defense held Penn State to a sack-adjusted rushing output of 67 yards. The Buckeyes completely dominated the line of scrimmage, especially on defense where Jonathon Cooper and Tommy Togiai had perhaps their best career performances. They combined for only 12 tackles and 3.5 sacks, but it felt as if they were in the mix on every play at the line.
Then there was the Ohio State rushing attack, which was far superior than it was in Week 1 vs. Nebraska. Master Teague eclipsed the 100-yard mark with a physical, down hill performance. Even if you remove Garrett Wilson’s 62-yard jet sweep on the first play of the game, Ohio State still ran for 146 yards on 44 carries.
Speaking of Wilson, he and Chris Olave each eclipsed 100 yards receiving for the second consecutive game – a feat never before accomplished by a pair of Ohio State receivers. Justin Fields was remarkable again Saturday night, completing 28-of-34 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns. He didn’t throw an interception for the second straight game to start the season, which means he’s still sitting on only three interceptions in 448 career passing attempts.
“I’m proud of his preparation,” said Ryan Day post-game. “He worked really hard this week in the meeting room. He was really on it, so I’m not surprised at the way he plays. When you can take the meeting room to the field quickly, that’s when you become special.”
“I think we did a lot of stuff better but, to be honest I am just happy that we won the game,” Justin Fields said after the game. “I think we did a lot of things well today but, ultimately I am just happy that we won.”
The Buckeyes out-possessed Penn State by 14 minutes, largely because Penn State couldn’t get off the field on third downs. Ohio State converted 10-of-18 third down tries on the night.
Ohio State is going to be a heavy favorite in each of the next two weeks. Frankly, they’ll be favored by several scores in most games they play the rest of the regular season. It’s admirable the way Penn State plays a full 60 minutes. Even when its ugly and the game isn’t particularly close, they fight and find a way to keep themselves somewhat within striking distance. The Nittany Lions very rarely get blown out.
That’s why Saturday’s win was so consequential, so impressive. With Penn State falling to 0-2 and Michigan dropping a stunner at home to Michigan State on Saturday, Ohio State’s stiffest competition the rest of the season may be the unbeaten Indiana Hoosiers.
The Buckeyes look every bit the part of a national championship contender and proved it to a national audience on Saturday night.
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