Game Thoughts: Penn State

Ohio State went on the road to Penn State and emerged with a hard-fought, double-overtime win over the Nittany Lions. Who played well for the Buckeyes in the win?

- Although a lot of people might not see it that way, this was a good win for Ohio State. It was a tough road game against a team that was very well coached, and prepared to play a style that gave them a chance to win. These are the games that makes a team better, not the previous four scrimmages. This is how you learn to win tough games. Alabama learned more beating Arkansas by one point than they did by beating Texas A&M 56-0. Winning close games on the road, where you need to dig deep for victory, is the best way teams get better over a season.

- James Franklin is a heck of a coach and a great addition to a league that is lacking in the coaching department. He took a butter knife to a gun fight and came within inches of a huge upset. His team was prepared and they never gave up when things looked bleak. On paper, this probably shouldn't have been close. But college football isn't played on a computer, and the game has a heartbeat, so coaching matters. Franklin, unlike the previous four opponents, would not let his team die even when it looked like they were dead at 17-0. Props to him.

- I NEVER, EVER, mention officiating and mostly laugh at people that say Wisconsin is allowed to hold and Michigan State is allowed to play too rough. Those are usually excuses for "my team just got beat up", and mostly follow a loss. But last night's game was the worst officiated game I've seen in a long time. Numerous laughably wrong calls and botched replays, but the good thing is they screwed both teams equally. The officiating did not decide the game, and each team had chances to win.

- J.T. Barrett was not good statistically, and no glorious school records were set against Penn State. And that's a good thing, because rolling cruddy teams just inhibits a quarterback from learning the most important lesson in football: Winning games at crunch time. Barrett was awful in the second half, but with Ohio State facing Loss#2 in overtime he just took over the game. The play-calling was a little skittish in the second half, and after the pick Ohio State just tried to run out the clock for almost two full quarters. But after two quarters of nothing, Barrett won the overtime. And the game. Had Penn State scored again, Barrett would have matched them every time. Not his best game by the numbers, but a game where he gets the "W". And THAT'S the only job of a quarterback.

- I thought the offensive line was OK, not good but not trucked either. They aren't the most talented group around, so they did enough considering who they are from a talent perspective. The Penn State front is good and the middle linebacker is a stud, so this was a tough matchup for Ohio State. The outside receivers are who they are: Average. They will roll the bad teams, but struggle to get open against decent teams. And that's been proven over the past few years, so 3 catches for 12 yards is all you need to know. They weren't much help last night and struggled to get open.

- The numbers aren't exceptional, but I thought Ezekiel Elliott was a Man against Penn State. He made holes when they weren't there, and fought for every inch. This was big for Ohio State, especially when they were too scared to throw the ball in the second half. Penn State knew there was no passing game, so they crowded the box and teed off on Elliott. He responded well. Running for over 100 yards and averaging four yards a carry in this game was far more impressive to me than running for 200 against the usual Big Ten swisscheese. Props to Zeke.

- The defensive line showed again why they are one of the best groups in the country, and they completely eliminated any running game and pressured a very talented quarterback. There's just not much to say about Joey Bosa that hasn't been said before. He's NFL-ready today, and it's hard to imagine how much better he's going to continue to get over time. Just a special, special player. He makes big plays in crunch time and he never seems to wear down, whether he's playing inside or outside. Props to Bosa.

- Chris Ash definitely earned his keep in this game, and I do not think Ohio State wins this game with last year's defensive staff and approach. You can nitpick and say the DB's gave up way too many short completions, and they couldn't stop Hackenberg on the final drive of regulation or the first overtime possession, but this was overall a nice defensive effort. This game was very similar to when Ash dominated Ohio State/Tom Herman two years ago when he was at Wisconsin. It's hard to hold any team under 250-yards total in this day and age, so that's a nice performance. This defensive effort can beat really good opponents, and I think it's clear just how good Ash is as a defensive mind.

- What's ahead for Ohio State? Next week they get to do what they do best. Roll a terrible team 66-7 and set numerous offensive school records in the process. Take THAT to the Bank.

- In two weeks, Ohio State travels to play the nasty boys from Michigan State. Can Ohio State go to East Lansing and beat the Spartans? Yes. Without question. No doubt about it. But that's a story for down the road, not today.

- In the grand scheme of things, where is Ohio State is relation to the playoffs and the ultimate committee? We are going to find out this week. I have an idea where they're going to have Ohio State this week, and I know where I would have them, but these might be two separate thought processes entirely. I want to see how they do things before commenting though, so let's see what they do.


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