STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Ohio State is still in control of the Big Ten throne.
The presumptive top challenger has now already been dispatched, and it’s not even November yet.
The Buckeyes have only played twice in this shortened, postponed season. But if Penn State was supposed to be the second-most talented team in the league and the program with the best shot to unseat the three-time defending champions, Ohio State made quite clear that it’s still in a class of its own with an impressive road win on Saturday night at Beaver Stadium.
If anything, the score doesn’t quite reveal just how thoroughly the Buckeyes dominated in a 38-25 win over the Nittany Lions. But they’ll take the win by any margin as Ryan Day’s College Football Playoff contender now looks ahead to what should be a relatively light stretch of the schedule with one of the biggest tests now emphatically passed.
The bottom line: Ohio State remains double-digits better than the rest of the Big Ten, and it’s showing no signs of slowing down.
That takeaway and more are here in the latest Snap Judgments from Lettermen Row with another critical win in the bank for the Buckeyes.
Silver Bullets roar to life for Ohio State
Ohio State didn’t wait to make adjustments and didn’t waste any time dialing up the aggression. And that combination produced one of the more dominant defensive outings in recent memory as the Buckeyes bottled up Penn State with a relentless pass rush, rock-solid tackling at linebacker and steady work from the secondary. Kerry Coombs deserves a lot of credit for bringing his infectious energy and confidence to the Silver Bullets in his first season as the defensive coordinator. And if it weren’t for a questionable penalty and a truly bizarre officiating decision at the end of the first half, Ohio State would have had a shutout heading into intermission as it built a comfortable road lead. The second half left a bit to be desired, but the Buckeyes were in complete control thanks to the stellar start.
Buckeyes ready with run-game wrinkles
Ryan Day arrived in Happy Valley armed with a few surprises that he kept hidden last week during the season opener, and he unleashed one on the opening snap of the game. The Buckeyes have long teased the possibility of bringing more jet sweeps into the attack when Justin Fields goes under center, and Garrett Wilson promptly turned one into a 62-yard gain that clearly caught Penn State flatfooted. Ohio State seemingly kept the play-calling pretty bland as it dominated Nebraska last week, and that was essentially confirmed by the more innovative designs Day dialed up for the Nittany Lions. It’s a sign of respect for Penn State’s talent that Ohio State showed more of the playbook, and it’s also a reminder that there’s still a lot more potential left untapped for Fields in this system.
Jonathon Cooper finding another gear for Ohio State
If assists were awarded for simply setting up sacks elsewhere, Jonathon Cooper was effectively playing point guard for the Buckeyes on Saturday night. The stats sheet simply doesn’t do justice for the work the senior was providing on the edge, and the motor he brought to the defense appeared to be contagious as the rest of the Silver Bullets followed the lead of the Block O captain. Cooper did get credit on a half sack, but more often than not, he was collapsing the pocket and flushing the quarterback into the arms of a waiting teammate — like Javontae Jean-Baptiste on the final play of the third quarter. This is the version of Cooper that was promised last year before a high-ankle sprain sabotaged his original senior campaign.
Ryan Day won’t back down for Buckeyes
The moment never seems too big for Ryan Day, who simply doesn’t blink in key moments and isn’t shy about getting aggressive in situations where many coaches shrink from the tough call. The Buckeyes sealed the win by pressing the issue on fourth down twice, and Day dialed up perfect passes in both situations. It obviously helps that he’s got complete confidence in Justin Fields to execute the ideas in Day’s brain, and the two were just about flawless against the Nittany Lions. Conservative, timid coaching doesn’t win championships, and Day again showed what separates him from the likes of James Franklin under the lights in Beaver Stadium.
Master Teague gives rushing attack physicality
There is nothing flashy about Master Teague’s rushing style, and sometimes he runs like an 18-wheeler that isn’t capable of many sharp turns. But when he gets a head of steam in the open field or has a one-on-one matchup near the goal line, he’s an absolute load to bring down. The Buckeyes can probably still find more explosiveness on the ground, but Teague answered the bell with a 100-yard outing and a touchdown in the key victory over the Nittany Lions.