Passing: Penn State-Christian Hackenberg (7/13 for 120y, 1TD)
Ohio State-J.T. Barrett (4/4 for 30y, 2TD)
Receiving: Penn State-Chris Godwin (3 receptions, 103 yd)
Ohio State-Michael Thomas (3 receptions, 34 yd, 1 TD)
Rushing: Penn State-Saquon Barkley (26 carries, 194 yards)
Ohio State-Ezekial Elliott (27 carries, 153 yards)
1. Play Calling is Killing this Offense
Penn State faithful continue banging their collective head on the coffee table as John Donovan calls predictable play after predictable play. Don't get me wrong; creativity isn't everything. Trick plays are overrated, and lots of offenses out there work by running a few plays over and over, relying on execution. That isn't the case here.
Time after time, it seems like we see the recipe for success on the few productive plays during a game only to watch as Donovan never returns to them. Hack runs a great bootleg on third down? Awesome, we'll never see that again. Deep pass to Godwin? Yup, let's be sure not to call any more plays his way. Brandon Polk is electrifying every time he touches the ball? Cool, let's get him one play (the same jet sweep we call every time) and then put him back on the shelf.
Even the things that go well every game (Saquon Barkley, doing literally anything) are somehow stymied by this offense. Please, John, explain how it is that our running back can rush for 196 yards, yet we end the game with 10 points.
Is it playcalling? Yeah, of course. You could have a talented quarterback with a bad play caller and make him look bad. You see that around the country, some closer than others.
-Pat Narduzzi, HC of Pitt Panthers
Narduzzi did nothing to either walk back his comment or clarify about whom he was speaking, although it was very clearly the relationship between Donovan and Hackenberg. When pressed, he simply replied “People can draw their own conclusions as to whom the shoe best fits." That's some serious burn.
That's not to say they aren't good; they are certainly that. But not quite great. Part of that is the inability of the offense to stay on the field, and part of that is a testament to the talent of the Ohio State offense. But truly great defenses don't surrender 38 points, especially in nationally televised night games. At first, Shoop's squad was doing a great job of the "bend, don't break" approach to defense, limiting big plays and keeping the score close. However, J.T. Barrett and the running threat he poses seemed to be too much for the Nittany Lions to manage. This defense has been very good so far this season, but has surrendered some big plays. That was a mistake they couldn't afford in this game, but unfortunately it was also one that they seemingly couldn't avoid.
3. Ohio State is the Best Team in the Big Ten
With all due respect to Michigan State and Iowa, Ohio State showed why it is ranked #1 in the polls with their performance in this game. Although Michigan State has won games against some quality opponents, it has underperformed at times in a way similar to Ohio State through the early portion of the season. The difference? Upside. At it's best, Ohio State has more offensive weapons than any defensive coordinator can plan for. Michigan State has it's own stars, but it's really not even a close comparison. And although it's defense is solid, Michigan State misses Pat Narduzzi and Luke Fickell has this OSU squad in tip top shape.
Iowa deserves much more attention than it has received, as its undefeated schedule thus far in the season includes a stronger strength of schedule (according to Jeff Sagarin's SOS ratings) than highly ranked OSU, Baylor, TCU, MSU, Clemson, and FSU. For a great defense of the Iow Hawkeyes, check out this piece at HawkeyeNation. No program in the country does a better job of developing the talent of its players, and Iowa has become nothing less than an NFL factory, taking 2 and 3 star recruits and turning them into high draft picks. However, I think some of the ranked teams they have beaten thus far will drop farther as the season goes on (looking at you, Northwestern) and it's just hard to believe Iowa as a legitimate #1 in the Big Ten. Lucky for them, they will have a great chance to prove me wrong in the B1G Championship Game. I hope they do.
4. Christian Hackenberg is a Tough SOB
Christian Hackenberg has never missed a snap due to injury, and Saturday was no exception despite taking 5 sacks and a nasty blow to the knee. Hack's knees clacked together on a tough sack, and his unprotected left knee was smacked violently into the metal brace on his right knee. He limped to the sideline, where medical staff examined him and bandaged his dripping wound. Next offensive series, he was back out on the field, facing the pass rush and leading his team despite the fact that he was obviously hurt and unable to make the most cursory of evasive maneuvers.
This, of course begs the question of why he stayed in the game so late, with the Nittany Lions trailing by 28 points. Honestly, I was okay with it at first. With a few minutes left on the clock, Hack is our best shot at mounting a miracle comeback. You can't always play the odds; games are won on the field, not in the press box. However, as the clock ticked down it began to seem a bit ridiculous. Franklin defended his decision well, I thought, except for the part where he pointed out that Ohio State still had Joey Bosa in the game. Yeah, James, that's our point. Keep the hyenas away from your wounded gazelle.
5. Saquon Barkley is For Real, and So is Carl Nassib.
There wasn't much question of this in my mind, but it still felt good to watch Barkley and Nassib acquit themselves well on the national stage against a top-ranked opponent. Barkley was nothing short of phenomenal, outgunning Heisman hopeful Elliott in his own house. Really, if Barkley hadn't been held out the past few weeks due to injury I think he would be getting mentioned along with Leonard Fournette and Davon Cook as one of the top 3 backs in the nation.
Penn State takes on Maryland this coming week, and we will be providing you with our usual dose of insight, injury updates, and clever taunts closer to game day. Stay tuned!