Ohio State vs. Penn State score, takeaways: No. 2 Buckeyes fumble but rebound to clinch Big Ten East
A rivalry showdown with Michigan is ahead now that Ohio State has thrwarted a comeback bid from Penn State
No. 2 Ohio State found itself in unfamiliar territory on Saturday. It entered the fourth quarter of a game with the outcome still in doubt. The new journey led to the same familiar destination, however, as the Buckeyes beat No. 8 Penn State 28-17 to improve to 11-0 on the season and give their College Football Playoff resume another boost and clinch the Big Ten East division title.
All in all, Ohio State dominated most of the game, but a crazy third quarter made things a lot more competitive. The Buckeyes turned the ball over twice in the quarter, leading to 14 Penn State points in a span of 25 seconds. Both of the scores came with Penn State starting QB Sean Clifford out of the game, as well. Will Levis stepped in and cut a 21-0 Ohio State lead to 21-14, and the Nittany Lions tacked on another field goal to make it 21-17.
Unfortunately for Penn State, after it dazed the mighty Buckeyes, Ohio State managed to find its balance again. Ohio State struck with a 28-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Justin Fields to Chris Olave following a Penn State turnover on downs to go up 28-17. Star defensive end Chase Young and the Buckeyes defense took care of things from there, keeping Penn State from scoring again.
It wasn't all good news for Ohio State, though, as Fields suffered what appeared to be a left ankle injury in the final minutes of the game. He was able to jog off the field afterward, but it could be something to monitor heading into next week's showdown with Michigan.
Here are five takeaways from this battle of Big Ten behemoths.
1. Ohio State is playing for the Big Ten title: This win clinched the Big Ten East division for the Buckeyes no matter what happens next week. That's important because winning the division is the first goal for any Big Ten team. You have to do that first if you want to win the Big Ten, and Ohio State is guaranteed a trip to Indianapolis where it will face either No. 10 Minnesota or No. 12 Wisconsin.
Of course, the biggest goal for Ohio State is a national title, and this game helps their case there as well. While Ohio State has been dominant all season long, its resume has lacked a certain sex appeal. There was the 38-7 win over Wisconsin, and a 42-0 win over Cincinnati, but those wins don't stack up to the wins No 1 LSU has collected. That hasn't stopped the CFP from ranking it No. 2, but if the CFP Selection Committee had that kind of respect for the Buckeyes without top 10 wins, this could push them toward No. 1. Being No. 1 is a big deal because it allows you to play closer to home in the semifinal and -- more important than anything -- it helps you avoid facing No. 3 Clemson for at least one game.
2. Turnovers can turn blowouts into close games: The final score of this game was 28-17. The 11-point margin of victory was the smallest of the season for the Buckeyes. That score was slightly misleading, however. As mentioned earlier, Penn State's two touchdowns came one after the other thanks to an Ohio State fumble. If you look at the box score and not the final score, this game doesn't look nearly as close. Ohio State had 417 yards of offense to Penn State's 227. Ohio State averaged 5.0 yards per play to Penn State's 3.5. Ohio State rushed for 229 yards to Penn State's 99. Ohio State also turned the ball over three times to Penn State's one. And while it was Ohio State's final two turnovers that led to 10 of Penn State's points, the first one took points off the board as well.
Fields was in the process of scoring a touchdown when he lost control of the ball just before crossing the goal line. Instead of an Ohio State touchdown that would have made it 14-0 in the first quarter, it was Penn State ball at its 20-yard line. Had Ohio State not turned the ball over three times, this final score likely would have looked a lot different.
3. Young is every bit as good as he's billed: As a defensive end, the odds Young was going to win the Heisman Trophy were already low before his two-game suspension. Now we can't even be sure he'll make it to New York as a finalist. That doesn't mean he shouldn't be, though. Quarterback is the most critical position on the field in this sport as it has the biggest impact on the outcome. Every once in a while, though, there are defensive players who have the ability to take a game over. Young is one of those players.
Ohio State's defense is one of the best in the country without Young, but when it has him, it is an elite unit. Young was everywhere in his return to action. He finished with nine tackles, three sacks and four tackles for a loss. The three sacks give him a total of 16.5 sacks on the season. That leads the Big Ten and the nation. It's also a single-season record for an Ohio State program that has produced its fair share of terrific pass-rushers. And he's done all that with at least three more games to play while missing two games. Young is a special player, and Ohio State fans better cherish the moments they have left with him because he's going to be sacking NFL quarterbacks next season.
4. Levis might be the better QB for Penn State's offense: It's a small sample size, I know, but I was impressed with Levis. After replacing the injured Clifford, Levis threw for only 57 yards, but he brought a rushing dynamic to the Penn State offense that Clifford does not. Levis finished with 34 yards rushing and a score, and the change of pace he brought to the game gave Ohio State's defense problems.
Now, I don't say this to slight Clifford. He's had a good season, though he has struggled somewhat in recent weeks. What I like about Levis, though, is he brings a wild card factor to this Penn State offense that it has lacked all season. Penn State's offense feels like "KJ Hamler or Bust" far too often, and Levis' legs bring an extra dimension for defenses to prepare to play. I don't think it would be a bad thing if Levis got some snaps next week against Rutgers, as well as in the bowl game, because he might be the answer for the Nittany Lions moving forward.
5. James Franklin's conservative nature hurt Penn State early: It's long been one of my major gripes with Franklin. In the first half of the game, Penn State punted while in Ohio State territory ... twice. The Nittany Lions entered this game as 20-point underdogs, and they were not going to beat Ohio State by playing the field position battle. It felt like Franklin was doing his team a disservice to punt in those spots, and neither punt stopped Ohio State. In a game like this, in which you need to be at your absolute best to win, I don't think being conservative works to your advantage. It's hard to beat great teams. It's even more difficult when your plan is to hope the great team beats itself.
CBS Sports was with you the entire way updating this story with the latest scores, highlights and analysis from Ohio State vs. Penn State. If you are unable to view the updates below, please click here.
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