They said Ohio State needed to blow out a quality opponent. They said Ohio State needed to score some style points. With a perceived weaker schedule, they said just winning wasn't going to be enough for Ohio State.
The Buckeyes listened. Braxton Miller, Carlos Hyde, and the rest of the Buckeye offense went 80 yards for a touchdown in the first three minutes of the game and never looked back, dominating Penn State in nearly every facet of the game, giving Kenny Guiton and other backups plenty of playing time, and pollsters and talking heads plenty to think about.
The final wreckage was impressive. The Buckeyes quickly built a 28-0 lead in the first half, which ballooned to 42-7 by the time halftime rolled around. They forced two interceptions from Christian Hackenberg, including one at the goal line of the Nittany Lion's opening drive, and chased the star freshman from the game by the early 3rd quarter with a pedestrian statline: 12/23 for 112 yards, a touchdown, and two picks.
The fully weaponized Buckeye offense was nearly flawless early in the game, led by a punishing rushing attack. Ohio State ran for 103 yards in the first quarter, a performance that would have made legendary Buckeye lineman Orlando Pace, who was honored after the first quarter, proud. Hyde opened the scoring with a 2-yard plunge after a bomb to Devin Smith was found to be just short of a touchdown, and added a 39-yard scamper later in the second quarter that showed off his mobility in addition to his punishing size and strength.
Penn State moved the ball well on their opening drive, threatening to tie the game at 7, but Hackenberg was intercepted by Corey "Pitt" Brown in the end zone, and he never really got comfortable the rest of the game. While Ohio State was able to get pressure on Hackenberg on a regular basis, the much maligned Buckeye secondary also had a very strong first half, taking away Hackenberg's first and second options, and eventually forcing a critical second interception.
Braxton Miller, on the other hand, was outstanding. Miller picked up his first rushing touchdown of the season for the Buckeye's second score, a 39 yard scamper early in the first quarter to go up 14-0. He added his second, a 6-yard designed run, with two minutes into the second quarter, to give the Buckeyes a 21-0 lead. His decision making throwing the football was also excellent, finding Chris Fields for a 3-yard lob for the Buckeye's 4th TD, and then perhaps his most impressive, a 25-yard bullet to Philly Brown with only three seconds left in the first half, giving us the immortal Braxton Miller Finger Guns. Hackenberg's 12-yard scoring toss to Brandon Felder was the only blemish on what would have been a nearly flawless first half.
How stark was the domination? Ohio State outgained Penn State 414-158, led 42-7, and led the turnover battle 2-0.
The hits kept coming in the second half. Hackenberg left early in the 3rd quarter, handing the keys to Tyler Ferguson, who was competent against mostly backups. Braxton Miller quickly hit Dontre Wilson for a 26-yard scoring strike, a drive set up thanks to a Zach Zwinak fumble, to push the margin to 49-7. He left the game later in the 3rd quarter as well, setting up a 2-yard Kenny Guiton touchdown plunge to increase the blowout even more.
Guiton added another 11-yard rushing score early in the 4th quarter to give them a 63-7 advantage, the most points Penn State given up since a 64-5 loss in 1899...to something called a Duquesne Athletic Club. Allen Robinson restored some pride with an impressive 65-yard catch and return for a score, but the damage was done.
Cardale Jones entered the game for the Buckeyes with 7:30 left, and promptly ran 17 yards. Rod Smith and Ezekiel Elliot also got carries.
Miller's final stat line? 18/24 for 252 yards and 3 TDs, along with 68 yards on 11 carries rushing, plus another 2 scores. Carlos Hyde ran 147 yards and 2 scores on 16 carries and Devin Smith added 90 yards on 5 catches. Jordan Hall added 81 yards on 8 (!!) carries, and Kenny Guiton ran for 2 scores. Ohio State rolled up 686 yards of total offense, ran for 408 yards, and was 7-10 on 3rd down. Penn State's Allen Robinson was once again excellent, with 12 catches for 173 yards and a score, but the Buckeyes dominated in every other facet of the game.
Penn State might not be an excellent team, and one game is unlikely to change the minds of all pollsters or computer formulas, but Ohio State should feel good about flipping the narrative against a team with a quality passing offense and a history of playing the Buckeyes very well. With Ohio State's offense operating at such an elite level, they'll be in the mix with no matter who they play.