Ohio State Eyeing CFP Berth After Win Over Penn State

ohio-state-beats-penn-stateThe Big Ten had a huge showdown this weekend, with the Ohio State Buckeyes and Penn State Nittany Lions facing off. Both teams were battling for first place in the Big Ten West, and the Buckeyes prevailed 27-26.

This game was a thriller, with Ohio State needing a fourth quarter defensive stand to stop Penn State from scoring with 1:16 left in the game.

PSU quarterback Trace McSorely had been lighting up the Buckeyes throughout the game, racking up 286 passing yards and 175 rushing yards. But Penn State made the strange call to hand the ball off to senior Miles Sanders on fourth down, which resulted in a 2-yard loss and turnover on downs.

Many questioned why Penn State didn’t simply put the game in McSorely’s hands, given how he was having such a great night against the vaunted Buckeyes’ defense.

Whatever the case may be, Ohio State is now 5-0 (2-0 conference) and in firm control of the Big Ten West. Meanwhile, Penn State falls to 4-1 (1-1 conference) and will need some help to win their division.

Does Ohio State Have a Clear Path to the CFP?

ohio-state-2018-cfpThe Buckeyes appear to be in the driver’s seat to win the West after beating their next-closest challenger. Ohio State doesn’t have a real test until mid-November, when they face Michigan State (#20 in polls). They also play Michigan (#15) on the road to end the season.

The Big Ten East doesn’t seem to present any big-time challengers. Wisconsin is a perennial favorite in the East, but Ohio State had no problem beating them last year in the conference championship game. The way things look right now, it doesn’t feel like the result will be much different in 2018.

Much will depend upon OSU quarterback Dwayne Haskins, who’s remained a Heisman candidate for the first half of the season. The sophomore sometimes still looks like a newcomer. He threw for 197 yards against Penn State, but was outclassed by McSorely most of the night.

However, Haskins did come through in the clutch by leading his team down for the go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. 73 of Haskins’ passing yards came on this drive, which ended with a 24-yard touchdown pass to K.J. Hill. The 2-point conversion failed, but it didn’t matter in the end.

Ohio State was far from perfect and looked bad at times on both sides the ball. But even without standout defensive lineman Nick Bosa, they still managed to win a very tough road game.

The Buckeyes aren’t automatically going to win the conference now. After all, the Big Ten schedule can get rather tricky as Ohio State has found out in years past. For example, they lost 55-24 to the Iowa Hawkeyes in 2017, which ultimately caused them to miss out on the CFP.

However, the Buckeyes are still favorites to win the conference and earn a playoff bid in doing so.

Where Does Penn State Stand?

trace-mcsorley-penn-stateThis is a very tough loss for the Nittany Lions to take. They essentially won the battle all night long, racking up more passing and rushing yards than Ohio State.

Penn State was poised to go into the half with a shutout. But they fumbled the ball, which led to the Buckeyes scoring a touchdown that gave them new life.

Now, PSU will need Ohio State to lose, and win tiebreakers in other areas for shot at the CFP. It’s not impossible for this to happen, especially with how early we are in the season. But Penn State has to be hurting after missing out on yet another opportunity.

Penn State coach James Franklin said that his team has shown that it can play with the game’s best. And they certainly proved it last night, despite losing on the big stage yet again.

Don’t count on PSU giving up, though, because anything can happen over the next six games. Again, they’ll need some help and have to win out the rest of their schedule. But with half a season left to go, there could be more upsets in the works, clearing the way for a Penn State conference title shot.

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