If you look at OSU against Penn State, OSU's players are better, but they aren't that much better. OSU's head coach is better (nothing against the storied Paterno career... I'm talking about recent years), but he's not that much better. The assistants are better, but they are not that much better. We have 4.4 guys and they might have 4.5 guys. OSU's guys can bench 225 lbs. 25 times and the Nittany Lions can do it 23. OSU's guys leap 36", Penn State leaps 35". These are all made up numbers, but my point is that things are very balanced.
Examine the 2002 National Championship season. You could say Texas and Penn State were Cincinnati and Purdue. The Buckeyes just won the games that year. It comes down to the wire. A high AP ranking and a low AP ranking could be the difference of a first down here and a turnover there.
Think in terms outside of football. Think of it in net worth terms. Michael Dell vs. Oprah Winfrey. I'm sure one has more assets, but they are both very rich with all the money they will ever need. The same can be said about talent levels competing in the Big Ten. These teams often have all the talent they need. I constantly hear about all the OSU talent we had on the ‘95 and ‘96 teams against Michigan. I agree, but Michigan had enough talent. Comparing paper doesn't go that far when you are slugging it out on Saturday.
With all that said, it comes down to the little things. OSU's completion percentage, total yards, first downs, punting averages, etc. were all in line with Penn State (and in most categories the Buckeyes actually won). The statistic Ohio State didn't win was turnovers. They picked off a pass and punched in a short touchdown. They forced a fumble and smothered a promising drive. +2 in turnovers Saturday night made PSU +6 in the Win/Loss column.
Now that is cheap to just blame a loss on simple turnovers. It is somewhat shallow to throw out turnovers as a "key to the game" every week. Okay, if these turnovers are such a big deal, how are they happening? Let's get to the root of it.
These turnovers often come from intangibles and recruiting and practice habits. When your defensive lineman has his motor running and practices each and every drill with authority for 12 months, he will beat his offensive lineman and get to the quarterback and smoke him. Good things happen when you have players using genes, technique, film study and conditioning. The probability of knocking a football loose is increased. The interception came from breaking on the ball and spacing and scouting. "Lucky" teams often are hard-working teams. With all the balance in college football, you better prepare yourself for luck. Luck is just a productive practice week away.
Now I am not about to cast this Buckeye team as average workers. I am here to tell you, these Buckeyes work harder and longer than any team I have seen since I've been in Columbus since 1994. However, the Penn State team put themselves in a position on Saturday night to get two turnovers that beat the No. 6 team in the country.