College Football Week 8: Ohio State and Penn State Chart Divergent Courses in Wins and Losses
One of the most significant games of the regular season was won by Ohio State 20–12 as their defence dominated Penn State.
The setback solidifies the Nittany Lions' position five years after James Franklin pledged they would one day graduate and play for the best teams in the Bowl Subdivision. While not exceptional, Penn State is pretty good. The Nittany Lions are barely surviving.
Add to that, Ohio State is coming up with inventive methods to win Big Ten games. The Buckeyes, evidently impacted by consecutive defeats to Michigan, are a physically strong squad characterised more by defensive prowess than by an offence that boasts elite skill players but has clearly regressed over the previous two years.
Until just under a minute remained, Penn State was unable to convert a single third-down opportunity. Of their 25 carries, the Nittany Lions managed just 2.6 yards per attempt on average. With an average of 4.3 yards per pass, Drew Allar connected on just 18 of 43 passes for 191 yards. His team's last drive, with Ohio State leading by 14, produced the most of his yardage and lone touchdown.
Penn State had opportunities to tie the game in the second half, but the Buckeyes' fourth-down effort on the goal line and a special teams error cost them. Ohio State's offensive firepower has allowed them to draw away from the Nittany Lions in scenarios similar to this one in the recent past. But perhaps one of the FBS's most improved defences was the driving force behind this team's seventh straight victory in the series. The Buckeyes' average yardage surrendered after Saturday is only 3.9.
A hit-or-miss offence that thrives when the ball is sent to All-America wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr., who had 11 receptions for 162 yards and a touchdown, has been sufficiently neutralised by this degree of stinginess. Despite facing the formidable defence of the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes were able to run for 79 yards, while Kyle McCord completed 23 of 35 passes for 286 yards.
After defeating the Wolverines to close November, the team will have a smooth four-game stretch. Next, Ohio State travels to Rutgers and Wisconsin, then back home to play Michigan State and Minnesota. Ryan Day and the Ohio State offence will have a month to prepare before playing the winner-take-all rivalry game at Ann Arbour.
Penn State's near future is less promising. This was a fantastic chance to snap a lengthy losing trend against an Ohio State team that clearly lacks the quality that has been the program's recent standard. With Michigan coming up in November, the Nittany Lions are once again no better than a participant in the New Year's Six after this loss. You can feel the disappointment.
States of Alabama
Alabama was all but eliminated following their defeats by Texas and South Florida in September. However, they managed to salvage some pride with a string of narrow wins, which included a 34-20 triumph over Tennessee, putting them back in the College Football Playoff competition. To defeat Tennessee, as in previous victories over Mississippi, Arkansas, and other teams, a more subdued offence centred on quarterback Jalen Milroe—who completed 14 of 21 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns with an interception—was necessary. Avenging their shootout loss from the previous year, the Crimson Tide outscored the Volunteers 27-0 in the second half after trailing 20-7 at the half. The results in league play have been consistent despite fewer style points: Alabama is using a potent defence to slow down opponents and is improving at guarding the ball while creating big plays downfield. Despite without its sparkle, the Crimson Tide have proven to be extremely resilient mentally, overcoming a slow start to the season to establish themselves as Georgia's top SEC opponent.
With a closer-than-it-looks 38-20 victory over Duke, Florida State maintained its undefeated record thanks to quarterback Jordan Travis' 330 yards of total offence. Riley Leonard, who was back in the starting lineup for the Blue Devils, had trouble getting things going in the air before he appeared to re-injure his ankle during the game in the third quarter, which ended in a narrow loss to Notre Dame last month. However, the game changed as soon as Leonard left: FSU was down 21–17 when Leonard was hurt, but they never looked back. Even though they lost, Duke is still impressive, and the Seminoles defeated one of the best teams in the ACC with some resourcefulness. They are still on pace to participate in the conference championship game and maybe make it to the playoffs.
Following yet another impressive display from a revitalised defence that led to a 17-9 victory over Northwestern, Matt Rhule has Nebraska headed towards bowl participation. With a 4-3 record, the Cornhuskers might potentially make the Big Ten title game if they can win their next six games against Purdue, Michigan State, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Iowa, all of which are relatively friendly opponents. Though they are a severely offensively flawed team (the entire offence is taped together with sticks and branches, making every victory an absolute adventure), Nebraska's ability to snap the Power Five's longest bowl drought in Rhule's first season would be a huge boost to the programme going into 2024.
In a 41-3 victory that was arguably the Wildcats' most comprehensive of the season, Kansas State dominated TCU from the first whistle. Even though the Wildcats' two tough losses to Missouri and Oklahoma State have forced them out of the Top 25, there are still times, like this past Saturday, when they appear to be among the top two or three Big 12 teams. With true freshman Avery Johnson and senior Will Howard combining for 244 yards and four touchdowns without a pick and an additional 135 yards on the ground, Kansas State has maintained a very intriguing two-quarterback rotation. The Wildcats may have been guided by their coach, Chris Kleiman, through a difficult period and back into the conference title game.