The Penn State Nittany Lions had a chance to claim dominance in the Big Ten when they faced off with the Ohio State Buckeyes Saturday, but instead the Penn State squad came up short, losing 35-23.
The win put Ohio State in firm control of the Leaders Division, and the loss may be the start of a big downhill swing for the Nittany Lions.
Penn State received a lot of coverage in the offseason for all the wrong reasons. The university was in the midst of one of the biggest scandals ever, and the team's longtime head coach Joe Paterno had passed away. When the dust settled, Penn State was hit with a $60 million sanction, a four-year football postseason ban and a vacation of all wins dating to 1998.
If it were not for those sanctions and the ones against Ohio State, Saturday's Ineligi-Bowl would have had major Rose Bowl implications.
Bill O'Brien and the Lions got off to a rough start, losing close games to Ohio and Virginia to begin the post-Paterno era. However, the Lions recovered, reeling off five straight wins after that, weathering the early storm.
Then Braxton Miller, Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes came into Happy Valley to rain on the Lions' parade.
Miller was his usual self, running for 134 yards and accounting for three touchdowns just a week after getting knocked out of a game. Penn State was able to run with OSU for half of the game, but an interception return by the Ryan Shazier early in the third quarter gave the Buckeyes the lead, and the Lions were never able to recover.
Penn State's running game was nonexistent Saturday. The Lions only managed 36 yards on the ground all game. This can be credited to All-Big Ten selection Silas Redd transferring to USC in the offseason.
The loss halts some major momentum for the Nittany Lions that they desperately needed entering the month of November. The Lions face Nebraska on Nov. 10, and finish the season with a game against the No. 25 Wisconsin Badgers.
The loss also will have an effect on recruiting going forward. Josh Moyer of ESPN's NittanyNation reported that a staggering amount of recruits were in attendance for the game:
This is Ohio State week. More than 100 prospects -- from Georgia, Maryland, Ohio and numerous states along the East Coast -- will converge on the sideline, and the Nittany Lions' staff must be prepared.
I'm going to say that a loss to Ohio State was not what the staff had in mind when they invited the hoard of potential Penn State players on the sideline. However, the recruits still got a taste of what it is like to play in the rowdy Beaver Stadium environment.
No one can take away from what Penn State and O'Brien have done this season. At 5-3 the Lions are already leaps and bounds ahead of where they were projected to be and have continued to hold it together despite the negativity surrounding the program.
Penn State needs to recover from their stumble against Ohio State—quickly.
If the Lions can remain above .500 and pull off the tall task of getting wins at Nebraska and Wisconsin, it will do wonders for recruiting going forward. However, doing that is easier said than done.