Week 8: Ohio State and Penn State went opposite ways

Photo of Penn State vs Ohio State

Ohio State’s defense excelled in their 20-12 victory over Penn State, marking a significant win in this season’s key matchups. Five years after James Franklin promised that the Nittany Lions would rise to the level of top Bowl Subdivision teams, this loss highlights their current status: Penn State is undoubtedly a strong team, but it falls short of being considered elite. It appears that the Nittany Lions may be stagnating.

Conversely, Ohio State is exploring innovative approaches to secure wins in the Big Ten. Evidently influenced by consecutive losses to Michigan, the Buckeyes have transformed into a physical team that places a strong emphasis on defensive excellence, moving away from their previous heavy reliance on their offense, which features top-tier talent but has noticeably regressed over the past two seasons.

Penn State grappled with converting third-down attempts until the final minute of the game. They only averaged 2.6 yards per rushing attempt out of 25 carries. Drew Allar completed just 18 of 43 passes for 191 yards, with an average of 4.3 yards per pass. The majority of his yardage and his lone touchdown came during the team’s last drive after Ohio State had established a 14-point lead.

Although Ohio State failed to convert a fourth-down attempt near the goal line and had a turnover on special teams, they still gave Penn State opportunities to even the score in the second half. In previous meetings, Ohio State typically distanced themselves from the Nittany Lions through their high-powered offense.

However, their seventh consecutive victory in this series was mainly driven by a defense that appears to be one of the most improved units in the FBS. After Saturday’s game, the Buckeyes are only allowing 3.9 yards per play.

The Buckeyes’ remarkable defensive performance has been a counterbalance to their inconsistent offense, which truly excels when targeting the All-America wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr.

He had a noteworthy game, making 11 receptions for 162 yards and securing a touchdown. When going up against Penn State’s formidable defense, Ohio State managed to accumulate only 79 rushing yards, while Kyle McCord completed 23 of 35 passes for 286 yards.

This victory sets the stage for a more manageable four-game stretch before the pivotal showdown with the Wolverines to conclude November. Ohio State’s upcoming schedule features away games against Wisconsin and Rutgers, followed by home matchups against Michigan State and Minnesota.

This series of games over the next month will provide Ryan Day and the Buckeyes’ offense with additional time for development before their crucial rivalry game in Ann Arbor. In contrast, Penn State’s immediate future looks uncertain.

This game represented a significant opportunity to end a lengthy losing streak against an Ohio State team that displays noticeable weaknesses in comparison to the program’s recent standards.

However, with this loss, the Nittany Lions once again find themselves vying for a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game, with a game against Michigan still looming in November. The sense of disappointment is palpable. The Buckeyes and Nittany Lions stand out as the most prominent winners and losers from Saturday’s matchups:


Alabama, previously facing adversity following losses to Texas and an unconvincing victory over South Florida in September, has bounced back with a series of narrow victories. Their resurgence culminated in a 34-20 win against Tennessee, firmly placing them in the mix for the College Football Playoff.

Similar to their previous triumphs against teams like Mississippi and Arkansas, defeating Tennessee required adopting a more conservative offensive strategy, with quarterback Jalen Milroe leading the way by completing 14 of 21 passes for 220 yards and two touchdowns, along with one interception.

Despite trailing 20-7 at halftime, the Crimson Tide dominated the second half, outscoring the Volunteers 27-0 as they sought redemption for last year’s high-scoring defeat. Although their playing style may lack some of the flashiness of the past, the results in conference play have remained consistent: Alabama leans on a strong defense, improved ball security, and explosive plays down the field.

Despite the diminished flamboyance, the Crimson Tide has displayed exceptional mental resilience in overcoming their early-season challenges and now emerges as a formidable challenger to Georgia in the SEC.

Florida State claimed a 38-20 victory over Duke, with quarterback Jordan Travis delivering 330 yards of total offense. Although the final score might suggest a close contest, the Seminoles maintained their undefeated status. Riley Leonard returned to the Blue Devils’ lineup, but he faced challenges in the passing game, which were compounded when he exited the match in the third quarter, possibly reaggravating an ankle injury sustained in a narrow loss to Notre Dame last month.

The game’s turning point occurred when Leonard left; at that juncture, FSU was trailing 21-17, but they subsequently took full control of the game. Duke, despite putting on an impressive display in defeat, witnessed the Seminoles secure another hard-fought victory against one of the ACC’s prominent teams. Florida State remains on course for a potential appearance in the conference championship game and a shot at the playoffs.

Missouri is in a good groove right now. While they may not be poised to win the SEC, it’s evident that the team has made significant strides and is currently playing their best football since Eli Drinkwitz took the helm as head coach. With a 7-1 record, Missouri recently triumphed over South Carolina.

They established a strong 24-3 lead by halftime, although they didn’t maintain the same level of dominance in the second half, ultimately winning 34-12. Notably, Missouri’s defense effectively contained Spencer Rattler, limiting his yards per attempt to just 5.4. On the offensive side, they showcased impressive performance, with running back Cody Schrader contributing 159 yards and two touchdowns, and Luther Burden, a potential All-America contender, leading the team with 90 receiving yards.

Looking ahead, Missouri faces formidable opponents in the upcoming matches against Georgia, Tennessee, and Florida. This signifies a significant November for Missouri, a situation they haven’t encountered in several years.

Nebraska guided by Matt Rhule, is on track to qualify for a bowl game, thanks to a strong performance by their resurgent defense, which played a crucial role in their 17-9 victory against Northwestern. With a current record of 4-3, the Cornhuskers are set to play several home games, including matchups against Purdue, Michigan State, Maryland, Wisconsin, and Iowa.

The goal of achieving six wins and potentially contending for the Big Ten title game is well within their grasp. While the team has notable deficiencies on the offensive side, often appearing as a makeshift structure held together through improvisation, Nebraska earning a bowl berth in Rhule’s debut season would be a remarkable accomplishment, injecting renewed enthusiasm into the program as they look ahead to 2024.

Kansas State displayed an impressive performance from the very beginning, culminating in a commanding 41-3 victory, which can be argued as their most comprehensive showing of the season. Despite falling out of the Top 25 due to challenging losses against Missouri and Oklahoma State, there are moments when the Wildcats prove themselves as one of the top two or three teams in the Big 12, and the game on Saturday was a prime illustration of this.

Kansas State maintains its unique two-quarterback strategy, utilizing both upperclassman Will Howard and true freshman Avery Johnson. Together, they contributed 244 yards and four touchdowns without any interceptions, and added another 135 yards on the ground. Coach Chris Kleiman has adeptly guided his team through a tough phase and seems to have placed the Wildcats on a path towards contention for the conference championship game.


After the loss on Saturday, James Franklin‘s record against Ohio State falls to 1-9, and he holds a combined 4-15 record against both Ohio State and Michigan, the Nittany Lions’ upcoming opponent on November 11.

Despite the program’s numerous victories, appearances in prominent bowl games, and overall success, there is an increasing feeling of missed opportunities and unrealized expectations, particularly with each consecutive defeat against the top teams in the Big Ten. Even if the Nittany Lions manage to reach double-digit wins, a loss to the Buckeyes and Wolverines would underscore how much more progress is required for the program to become a legitimate contender for national championships.

Once again, Southern California endured another distressing loss, but in contrast to the previous week’s one-sided defeat at Notre Dame, this loss took place at their home stadium and brought about a more conventional form of heartache. Utah managed a 54-yard drive in the final 1 minute and 46 seconds, securing the victory with a 38-yard field goal just as time expired, resulting in a 34-32 triumph over Southern California.

Quarterback Bryson Barnes contributed 235 passing yards, four total touchdowns, and a critical scramble during the concluding drive, effectively countering Caleb Williams’ 256 passing yards and a rushing touchdown. While this performance demonstrated improvements compared to their game against Notre Dame and revealed more instances of the USC defense functioning effectively, these back-to-back losses have exposed a sense of vulnerability within the Trojans. With upcoming matchups against Oregon, Washington, and UCLA, this year could potentially become even more arduous.

The North Carolina team, which remained undefeated, often appeared to be testing their luck. However, they frequently leaned on Drake Maye, who consistently delivered performances with 350 passing yards and three touchdowns, guiding the Tar Heels to high-scoring wins. Nevertheless, their streak of good fortune came to a halt in a surprising turn of events against an unforeseen challenger, Virginia.

The Cavaliers achieved the most significant victory of Coach Tony Elliott’s tenure by effectively controlling the game, keeping Maye on the sidelines, and securing a 31-27 upset. Virginia maintained possession for more than 37 minutes and executed 54 rushing attempts for 228 yards, effectively countering the offensive output of UNC, which still managed to secure 26 first downs and accumulate nearly 500 yards despite having limited opportunities.

Clemson is veering towards what could be their most challenging season since 2010, as exemplified by their 28-20 overtime loss to Miami. The Tigers committed three turnovers, struggled to establish a productive running game, and, somewhat surprisingly, found themselves in a position to secure a victory late in the fourth quarter. However, they allowed a game-tying field goal with less than two minutes left on the clock, and they failed to score from mere inches away from the end zone in the second overtime period.

This victory essentially rescues Miami’s season, which was on shaky ground following losses to Georgia Tech and North Carolina, and it momentarily alleviates the mounting pressure on Coach Mario Cristobal. Meanwhile, for Clemson, this loss represents a substantial setback, effectively dashing their hopes of reclaiming the ACC championship and officially confirming a second consecutive year without a playoff berth.

Arkansas currently holds the distinction of being the least competitive team in the SEC West, and their offense ranks as the least effective in the entire SEC. This situation has led to increased scrutiny regarding Sam Pittman’s tenure as the head coach, especially as the regular season approaches its final four games.

The possibility of a postseason appearance has become increasingly unrealistic following a disheartening 7-3 loss to Mississippi State, marking the Razorbacks’ sixth consecutive defeat, which may be the most disheartening of the lot. The visibly empty stadium serves as a clear indicator of the current state of affairs, signifying that Arkansas has shifted from being a trendy choice to a team that no longer generates excitement under Pittman’s leadership.

While Iowa was riding high on a winning streak, it all seemed like fun and games. However, the jokes and frustration directed at Iowa’s offensive struggles have taken on a more serious tone following their 12-10 loss to Minnesota. During this game, the Hawkeyes were limited to just 127 yards and failed to secure a victory, despite effectively keeping the Golden Gophers out of the end zone.

To compound the disappointment, a potential game-winning touchdown on a punt return by Cooper DeJean, with less than two minutes left, was negated by officials who ruled that DeJean had signaled for a fair catch. Just a week after it appeared that the Hawkeyes had a firm hold on the Big Ten West with their win over Wisconsin, the division is once again up for grabs.

In their matchup against Pittsburgh, Wake Forest found themselves without their starting quarterback and his backup, leading Dave Clawson to place the offensive responsibilities in the hands of redshirt sophomore Santino Marucci. Prior to Saturday’s game, Marucci’s playing experience had been quite limited, consisting of only six garbage-time snaps against Norfolk State two years ago, all of which were on special teams.

The outcome of the game followed a somewhat predictable pattern. With just 1 minute and 30 seconds remaining, the Panthers held a 17-14 lead after a 75-yard touchdown drive and later intercepted Marucci with a little over a minute left. Even after punting the ball back to Wake Forest just 23 seconds later, Pittsburgh needed just one last defensive stop to secure their second consecutive win.

However, Marucci orchestrated a 48-yard drive for the Demon Deacons in a mere 33 seconds, culminating in a 15-yard touchdown pass to Cameron Hite with just seven seconds remaining. This turn of events ultimately handed the Panthers their most devastating loss in what has been a challenging season.


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