OVERVIEW: First off, nobody goes undefeated anymore in college football. And nobody can go five years without losing a road game. Certainly not what anybody wants to hear on Over-Reaction Sunday, but it's the truth. Secondly, Penn State is a very deserving winner. This game was not handed to them. They took it. They made plays offensively every time they had their backs to the wall, and their defense got stops when it appeared things might be getting out of hand. The stats favored Ohio State, but stats don't show "winning plays", and Penn State made a ton of them. Stats also don't show physicality, and Bell, Cabinda and Sickles flat out beat the tar out of the Ohio State offensive line. I heard the radio announcers say Ohio State let Penn State hang around and didn't put them away. That's because Penn State REFUSED to be put away. Ohio State had way too many penalties and special teams were a disaster, and those issues are huge red flags and go directly to coaching.
COACHING: Credit James Franklin with a great game plan, but more importantly, he played to win and not just come close. The key moment came right before the half, when Ohio State went ahead 12-0. Penn State took over on their own 25 with a minute left. They had not gained many yards to this point, and when they ran the ball twice for one yard, and faced 3rd-and-8 with 37 seconds left. A timeout was called, which was smart for Urban Meyer to stop the clock and look to get the ball back. Only it wasn't Meyer calling the timeout. It was Franklin. He was not going down without trying to score. He gets the third down, and then gets sacked in his own territory, but calls another timeout because he's clearly looking to score. He hasn't scored in 29 minutes, but he thinks he can go 75 yards in less than a minute? And that's what he did. He goes to the half at 12-7, not 12-0, or 15-0, or even 19-0. That set the tone for the second half that Penn State was here to bang all night. Then when Ohio State goes up 21-7 and you're thinking the game is close to being put away, they go 90 yards in a minute to make it 21-14, and now you start to see Ohio State begin to crack. Great win for Franklin, and sometimes you just shake the other guy's hand and say "Congratulations."
OFFENSIVE STRATEGY: Just when you think Ohio State has found their legs offensively with a great second half performance at Wisconsin, you watch Saturday's game and just shake your head. They still haven't figured out that Curtis Samuel is really good at football, and he is their only playmaker on offense. So to prove that point, Samuel never touches the football until Ohio State's 25th offensive play. No, tonight will be the Mike Weber show and he puts up 107 yards on 29 touches. They really feel the need to throw it to him a lot, and he catches 8 balls for a whopping 36 yards. You could throw it to Earle Bruce 8 times and he would get more than 36 yards. Try it once, twice, OK? But eight times? Back to Samuel: his rushing line? How about 2 carries for 71 yards, which is pretty good. He also catches eight balls, but it's for 68 yards. So their best offensive player by a mile gets ten touches in a defensive slugfest. And since you cannot get it to him on offense, why not let him return kicks and punts? He's surely not tired from all of those ten touches. Wouldn't it be great to see Samuel with the ball in the open field? At the end of the game when you need a return, Parris Campbell drops the football, picks it up, and gets to the freaking 11-yard line. Why not let Samuel try to take it to the house there? It was a grab bag offense all night, and they never grabbed Samuel's name out of the hat, and paid for it. He is their only playmaker on offense, surrounded by good players that cannot make big plays. He simply has to get the football.
THE QUARTERBACK: J.T. Barrett played well, and he was sacked six times and hurried on several other plays. He did miss some throws and was late delivering the football on others, but he threw it well enough to win and had no turnovers. This is not a great passing scheme and it's very simplistic, so you can't put too much on Barrett. He's a heck of a player. He was a better player when surrounded by NFL-Devin Smith, NFL-Evan Spencer, NFL-Mike Thomas, NFL-Nick Vannett, NFL-Jalin Marshall, NFL-Braxton Miller and NFL-Zeke Elliott. Enough said there, and those guys aren't walking through the door anytime soon. You can win a national title with J.T. Barrett, but he needs everyone around him playing well.
THE RUNNINGBACKS: See above: "Offensive strategy."
THE WIDE RECEIVERS: There is no deep threat, and as a result the safetys and linebackers are within ten yards of Barrett when he takes the snap. Sometimes these guys get open and Barrett misses them. Sometimes they don't get open and Barrett holds the ball too long. Sometimes they drop passes. The passing attack has never been real sophisticated under Meyer, but it sure looks better when you have a lot of NFL talent on the field instead of lots of average receivers. I believe this group improves when guys like Mack, Binjimen, Grimes and Lindsey are out there, but that won't happen soon. I do not place blame here on Zach Smith at all, because this offense is not his baby. This offense is mostly Urban, then Warinner. Smith and Beck do not set the game plan, nor do they design the passing attack.
THE OFFENSIVE LINE: I think they were playing great and that was surprising for such a young and inexperienced group. Against Penn State they fell apart and got their collective tails kicked. The offensive line deserves a pass, I believe, and I think these are very talented guys that got whipped. Directly opposed to the wideouts, that I don't think are all that good. Go ahead and put Jamarco Jones, Isaiah Prince or Michael Jordan on waivers tomorrow, and watch every team in the country fight to pick them up. Can you say the same thing about the wideouts? No, because everybody has guys like them. Prince was awful all night long, but did they adjust protection to help him? Did they line a tight end up with him to help? Did they shade a back to his side to chip? Did they remove him for a series to coach him up and get him fixed? Nope. They just left him out there to get beat, over and over. Billy Price is not young and inexperienced, but he was no day at the beach either. Can this group bounce back and be better? I feel strongly that they can and will.
THE SUMMARY: If you want to get very simplistic, the offensive line lost this game. Had they handled the Penn State front-seven, we might not be talking about Samuel not getting the ball, Barrett's misses, the wideouts being inconsistent and the offensive coaching strategy. Can they win going forward with this offensive group? Of course they can. Even though they took a step backward on Saturday, this offensive line has been darn good all year. If they come back to who they were previously, the ball gets to Samuel more creatively, the wideouts step up a tad, and Barrett plays a little better, this is still one of the best teams in America. And that loss will mean nothing if they win out and beat Michigan. This is not the BCS era, so get to the Big Ten title game, win it, and all their dreams can come true. And they will be the favorite in every game the rest of the season. They have offensive issues, but to me they aren't critical issues that cannot be solved.