By: Nick Jacquin, Sports Writer
With just under a month remaining in college football’s regular season, there is still some uncertainty as to who will be selected to the College Football Playoff. While Alabama has proven itself as the best team in America, the Penn State Nittany Lions had a chance to solidify its spot in the final four teams with a win Saturday against the Ohio State Buckeyes.
Penn State came into the matchup as the number two team in the nation with a 7-0 record and they have been pretty dominant on the season behind a strong showing from junior running back and Heisman candidate, Saquon Barkley. Ohio State, meanwhile, came in at 6-1 and on the outside looking in at number two in the AP rankings. The battle that resulted from these two teams was just short of remarkable.
The Nittany Lions opened the game up strong as Barkley showed the nation why he is a Heisman favorite, taking the opening kickoff 97-yards for the touchdown. After Ohio State fumbled on its first possession on its own 23-yard line, Penn State was back in business. Quarterback Trace McSorley found DaeSean Hamilton in the end zone just five plays later and just like that, it was 14-0 Penn State just three and a half minutes into the game.
Ohio State would cut the lead to 14-3 with 4:38 left in the first on a field goal by Sean Nuernberger. The game went back in forth in the second quarter with each team scoring twice. After Barkley scored on a 36-yard run, the Buckeyes answered on a J.T. Barrett touchdown pass to Terry McLaurin. The game went into halftime with Penn State leading 28-17.
After Ohio State opened up the second half with a field goal, Penn State responded with yet another touchdown, making it 35-20. That is when the game started to get interesting with Barrett having an unbelievable fourth quarter.
A 38-yard touchdown from Barrett to Johnnie Dixon made it a one-possession game and put it to within reach for the Buckeyes. However, Penn State put together a solid drive on its next possession, driving 64 yards down the field and capping it off with a 24-yard field goal with 5:42 remaining.
Barrett orchestrated another great drive for the Buckeyes and he found Dixon for his second touchdown reception of the game to cut the Nittany Lions lead to 38-33, after they failed to convert on the two-point conversion. Penn State went three-and-out and ultimately gave the Buckeyes one last chance to win it with a touchdown and 3:07 left in the game.
Ohio State quickly marched down to the Penn State 16-yard line. Barrett found his big tight end Marcus Baugh with 1:48 remaining to give OSU its first lead of the game at 39-38. With the crowd going crazy, Penn State was unable to make a late comeback, giving the Buckeyes the big win to remain undefeated.
While Ohio State now controls the Big Ten East, their path to the playoff is unclear with their loss to Oklahoma. Penn State, on the other hand, will need some upsets to get back into the playoff picture and Big Ten Race.