The 2017 College Football Playoff race shifted in a major way on Saturday with Ohio State gaining a leg up on Penn State in the Big Ten title race with its 39-38 comeback win in Columbus, Ohio.
For the Buckeyes, it's a win that legitimizes their improvement shown since losing to Oklahoma earlier this season. Penn State now has to hope that it can win the rest of its games and get enough help to leapfrog its way into the Big Ten Championship Game or the CFP.
The improvement since the Oklahoma game is evident everywhere for Ohio State but especially at the quarterback position with JT Barrett, who completed 33-for-39 passes for 328 yards, four touchdowns and no interceptions while adding more than 90 rushing yards on Saturday. At one point in the second half, Barrett completed 16 passes in a row while leading back-to-back touchdown drives of 1:17 and 1:19 to take the lead. Ohio State couldn't get out of its own way with two lost fumbles and other miscues, but the Buckeyes' defense played strong and kept giving the ball back to Barrett.
Eventually, those drives ended in touchdowns, and Ohio State was able to get revenge for last year's loss.
Getting crazy in The Shoe pic.twitter.com/B1KW0trOMC— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 28, 2017
A few things to note about the win.
1. Saquon Barkley nearly put the game away in the first 20 minutes: This game shouldn't have a huge impact on Barkley's Heisman Trophy candidacy. Barkley does it all on offensive and special teams, but he can't play defense against Ohio State's wide receivers, and he did plenty to put Penn State out to an early lead in the first half. Of course, it started with his 94-yard kickoff return touchdown.
Barkley followed that up with a 36-yard touchdown run early in the second half to give Penn State a 21-3 lead. But then things turned.
If you take away that 36-yard touchdown run, Barkley recorded just eight net rushing yards on the other 20 carries. Ohio State's defensive line did a great job of getting penetration and wrapping up Barkley in the backfield as Penn State tried to burn clock with its ground attack. The Nittany Lions needed just one more breakout moment than Barkley had on Saturday, but he should still be among the frontrunners for all of the individual accolades as one of the best football players on the planet.
2. A huge statement for JT Barrett: Barrett's critics weren't ready to shower the veteran quarterback with praise as he rolled up big numbers against lesser opponents during the Buckeyes' current five-game run. Barrett's struggles against Penn State last season were pointed to as reasons to doubt his impact on game head into Saturday. While there were several missed throws, particularly early, Barrett's performance as a whole did nothing to but help Ohio State win and it was his play in the clutch moments that sealed the 18-point comeback.
BLOCKED PUNT ➡️ BUCKEYE TD pic.twitter.com/pMXuqWlBpw— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) October 28, 2017
Having drives end in turnover on downs, turnovers or even field goals created what would have been a deflating feeling for any other team, but the Buckeyes kept grinding and with each possession it looked like Barrett was getting more and more comfortable dissecting the Penn State secondary. He did a great job of spreading the ball around (KJ Hill was his most reliable target, hauling in 12-of-14 targets for 104 yards) and going through his reads. If he keeps Ohio State unbeaten through the rest of the season, he'll start to rival Barkley in the conversation for best in the Big Ten.
3. The real MVP is Ohio State's defensive front: Barrett never gets a chance to heat up if the Silver Bullets don't totally shut down Penn State's offense in the second half. Sam Hubbard, Nick Bosa and Tyquan Lewis were beasts up front, forcing Trace McSorely to make throws on the run and keeping Barkley tied up at the line of scrimmage. When McSorely was able to check down to Barkley or tight end Mike Gesicki, Jerome Backer and the rest of Ohio State's athletic linebackers and safeties did a good job of swarming to the ball.
Greg Schiano's gameplan relied on Ohio State's superior defensive talent to make plays in space and they answered the call against one of the top offensive attacks in college football. Barrett will get many headlines because this game reversed a popular narrative of the 2017 Ohio State season, but the most dominant aspect of the Buckeyes as a national title contender is its defensive front.
Catch up with more highlights and updates from the game below. If you are unable to view them,.
Thanks for stopping by.