Ohio State overpowers Penn State behind Marvin Harrison Jr.’s career day: What are the CFP implications?

By Cameron Teague Robinson, Audrey Snyder and Max Olson

No. 3 Ohio State downed No. 7 Penn State 20-12 on Saturday in Columbus, Ohio., to remain undefeated and hand the Nittany Lions their first loss of the season. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. was a huge factor in the Buckeyes’ win, catching a career-high 11 passes for 162 yards and a touchdown.
  • Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord threw for 286 yards on 22-of-35 passing.
  • Penn State was 1-of-16 on third down, and QB Drew Allar was sacked four times. He finished with 191 yards and a last-minute touchdown on 18-of-42 passing.

Harrison shines

Saturday’s game was simple. It was two defenses dominating, but one team had Harrison, and the other did not.

Any time Ohio State needed a big play it went to Harrison. This was no slouch performance, either. Penn State entered the game as the best defense in the country with the top-ranked pass defense. The Nittany Lions gave up just 121 yards per game coming into Saturday, and Harrison exceeded that mark on his own.

He’s been the best receiver in the country since last season and he put on a show in an otherwise boring game.

When it comes to the top teams in the country, there isn’t a more influential offensive player, that isn’t a quarterback, in the country.

Despite the two drops in the first half, there was never a doubt about where the Buckeyes were going when they needed a big play. Penn State, despite the talent it has outside, just couldn’t contain him. — Cameron Teague Robinson, Ohio State staff writer

Buckeyes’ defense thrived on third down

Ohio State just put on a historic defensive performance.

After hearing all week that the Penn State defense was the best in the country, the Buckeyes held the Nittany Lions to 1-16 on third down. No Top-25 team has gone 0-12 or worse in the last five years. To put the performance in more context, Penn State entered the game ranked No. 20 in the country in third down percentage, at 48 percent, but Ohio State’s defense won out.

One year after Ohio State gave up 118 combined points to Penn State, Michigan and Georgia last year, the Buckeyes have given up just 26 points in their two ranked matchup this season.

All offseason the talk was about how much better the defense is than a year ago. They showed it on Saturday in a big way. — Robinson

PSU searching for answers on offense

Penn State’s offense was putrid. The Nittany Lions didn’t convert a third down until the final seconds of the fourth quarter. Allar looked skittish. He didn’t turn the ball over, but he also didn’t look like the kind of game-changer PSU needs in these marquee matchups. Yes, Penn State put up a lot of points through its first six games, but against one of the best teams in college football — and let’s be frank, the Ohio State offense looked like a real struggle against this PSU defense — the Lions couldn’t measure up.

Penn State’s receiving corps came into this season knowing it needed someone to step up and leaves here facing the reality that beyond KeAndre Lambert-Smith, this group is lacking. It added Dante Cephas and Malik McClain via the transfer portal in the offseason, yet neither has been much of a factor this season. More often than not, there was no receiver open for Allar to get the ball to. PSU’s leading receiver was Lambert-Smith who finished with six receptions for 52 yards —Audrey Snyder, Penn State staff writer 

Mistakes, missed opportunities hinder Nittany Lions

There will be countless missed opportunities for PSU to lament. A holding penalty on cornerback Kalen King wiped away a defensive touchdown from Curtis Jacobs. PSU recovered a punt late in the third quarter that bounced off Ohio State’s Lorenzo Styles. With a golden opportunity at the Penn State 48-yard line, the offense failed to move the ball. JT Tuimoloau sacked Allar for an 8-yard loss that set up an insurmountable third-and-15.

Keep in mind Ryan Day even opted to take a knee to end the first half when OSU got the ball at their own 17-yard line with 42 seconds and three timeouts. The Buckeyes also passed up a chip shot field goal and instead went for a touchdown on 4th-and-2 at the PSU two late in the third quarter. Penn State got the stop, stole the momentum and still with the lack of a passing attack couldn’t do anything. In a series full of heartbreak for Penn State, add this one to the list. PSU had chances and without an offense, it paid the price. — Snyder 

The Athletic has live coverage of Ohio State vs. Penn State in Week 8 college football action

What the wins means for Ohio State’s CFP chances

Ohio State survived a tough test and will move up. Holding this Penn State team to just 12 points will end up looking very good on the Buckeyes’ resume at the end of the year. Combine it with the last-second road win at Notre Dame and you’d have to say the Buckeyes have more impressive wins at this point in the season than most top-10 teams.

It’ll be fascinating to see how poll voters — and, on Halloween, CFP committee members — judge this team going forward. Ohio State certainly does not look like a finished product at this point, but there are more reasons for optimism about this team’s upside than pessimism. — Max Olson, national college football writer

What the loss means for Penn State’s CFP chances

If there was ever a year to steal a win from the Buckeyes in their home stadium, this felt like the year for Penn State. These Buckeyes were beatable. But there was never a moment in this game when it looked like Franklin’s team was ready to capitalize on an opportunity to pull away. They shouldn’t slide too far in the rankings and in the eyes of the CFP committee, but this team has two more tune-up games against Indiana and Maryland before it’s time to take on No. 2 Michigan.

Once again, that game will be a season-defining one for a team that has higher aspirations than another 10-2 regular season. Had this been a closer loss, perhaps Penn State would have an outside shot of sneaking into the four-team field at the end of the year as an 11-1 team without a Big Ten title. Now this team needs a lot of help. — Olson 

Highlight of the game

Key stat

Penn State falls to 3-16 against AP top-10 teams under coach James Franklin. The Nittany Lions haven’t beaten a top-10 team on the road since 2008 at Ohio State.

Required reading

(Photo of Marvin Harrison Jr: Ben Jackson / Getty)

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