Penn State vs. Ohio State: 10 Things We Learned in Buckeyes' Win
The No. 4 Ohio State Buckeyes destroyed the Penn State Nittany Lions 63-14 in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday night, pushing the nation's longest winning streak to 20 while making a big push in the race for a national title.
The Buckeyes (8-0) handed the Nittany Lions (4-3) their worst loss in 114 years, according to ESPN.com, while solidifying their status as the Big Ten's best team.
Here are 10 things we learned from the historic blowout.
Ohio State Definitively Belongs in the National Title Conversation
After Florida State blasted Clemson and the initial BCS rankings came out last week, many across the country believe there's a wide gap between the top three teams (Alabama, Florida State and Oregon) and Ohio State.
After their 49-point rout of a solid Penn State team, the Buckeyes proved that the gap isn't that big.
There's still a lot of football to be played, and historically, the national title conversation has worked itself out since the BCS' inception in 1998.
But after Ohio State's dominant victory, there shouldn't need to be a debate anymore. The Buckeyes are an elite football team.
Braxton Miller Is an Elite Quarterback
Braxton Miller's knee injury and the three-week show Kenny Guiton put on in his absence distracted nearly all of us from the simple fact that Braxton Miller is one of college football's best quarterbacks.
The junior signal-caller struggled a bit as he eased his way back from injury, but following the Buckeyes' bye week, when he had a chance to really let his knee heal, Miller has been phenomenal.
Against Penn State, Miller threw for a career-high 252 yards and three touchdowns (against no interceptions) to complement 68 rushing yards and two more scores on the ground.
This was a week after he piled up 324 yards and two touchdowns against Iowa.
In his last two games, Miller is completing 78.4 percent of his passes for 474 yards and five touchdowns (and zero picks). He also has another 170 yards and two touchdowns on the ground.
If he can stay healthy the rest of the year, the Buckeyes will only continue to get better.
Ohio State's Offense Can Be Scary Good
Ohio State has been very good on offense this year, but the Buckeyes took things to an entirely new level against the Nittany Lions.
Ohio State put up a season-high 408 rushing yards to complement 278 through the air. The 686 total yards was third-most in school history and the most put up against a Big Ten opponent ever, according to Marcus Hartman of Buckeye Sports Bulletin.
Penn State's defense has been shaky, but it was solid against the run, ranking 21st in the country, giving up an average of 117 yards per game.
Ohio State nearly quadrupled that, even when the Buckeyes slowed down the pace considerably in the second half.
The next step for the Buckeyes is to perform at this level on a consistent basis.
Christian Hackenberg Wasn't Ready for Ohio State or the 'Shoe
Penn State freshman Christian Hackenberg came into Saturday's matchup as one of the Big Ten's hottest quarterbacks, averaging 278 passing yards per game. He was on pace to throw for more than 3,200 yards this season and was coming off a dramatic quadruple-overtime victory over Michigan.
The Buckeyes defense and Ohio State's insane home-field advantage rattled the freshman into the worst performance of his young career.
Hackenberg completed just 12 of 23 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown against two interceptions. After getting hit hard in the first half by fellow freshman defensive end Joey Bosa, Hackenberg injured his shoulder, which forced him to the sideline for most of the second half.
Ohio State's Defensive Front Needs to Get After the Quarterback
Ohio State got after the quarterback with tremendous success Saturday.
The Buckeyes sacked Christian Hackenberg four times, and constant pressure never allowed the talented freshman to find a rhythm. He connected with Allen Robinson on three passes in the first two drives, then was blanked for the rest of the half mainly because the defensive front was relentless.
Tyler Ferguson had more success after Hackenberg went down. He completed seven of 11 passes for 125 yards and a touchdown while doing a better job handling Ohio State's pressure.
The Buckeyes' pass defense has struggled tremendously because the front hasn't been able to knock the opposing quarterback out of his comfort zone. It did against Penn State, though, which resulted in Ohio State's best defensive performance of the year.
Bill Belton Is the Answer for Penn State at Running Back
Bill O'Brien was operating a running-back-by-committee system between Bill Belton, Akeel Lynch and Zach Zwinak for much of the season, but a clear leader emerged against the Buckeyes.
Belton was Penn State's most consistent performer, running for 98 yards on 22 carries against the Buckeyes' seventh-ranked rushing defense. Belton gave Ohio State all it could handle, showing great patience and vision on several runs and tremendous athleticism on others.
The junior was just two yards shy of being the first running back to break 100 yards against the Buckeyes this season. Regardless, Belton ran hard all night, giving the Nittany Lions something positive to take away from the rout.
It's Starting to Click for Dontre Wilson
The speedy freshman from Texas was called a "novelty" by Urban Meyer during Ohio State's bye week, and the coaching staff challenged him to step up his all-around play.
Wilson responded with a decent performance against Iowa, but the freshman played his best game against Penn State.
He only got three offensive touches (one rush, two receptions), but he made the most of them, piling up 47 total yards. He flashed what everyone has been waiting to see in the third quarter, when Miller delivered a quick outlet pass and Wilson took it 26 yards to the house.
In the second quarter, Wilson was a tackle away from returning a kickoff for a touchdown. Still, he showed incredible speed and elusiveness in his 59-yard return, which set Ohio State up for a quick two-play scoring drive.
Carlos Hyde Is One of the Best Running Backs in the Country
He has power. He has speed. He has balance, agility and elusiveness.
Over the last four games, Hyde is averaging 132 yards and 6.6 yards per carry. He has rushed for seven rushing touchdowns against four Big Ten opponents, three of which boast Top-25 rushing defenses.
Against Penn State, Hyde was outstanding. The 6'0", 235-pound running back bullied his way to 147 rushing yards and two touchdowns on just 16 carries.
Having Hyde in the backfield with Braxton Miller gives Ohio State two of the country's most dangerous weapons in the same backfield.
Jordan Hall Is Too Talented to Be Forgotten
Late in the game, redshirt senior Jordan Hall reminded everyone that he's still a dangerous option for Ohio State's offense.
Hall was outstanding for the Buckeyes early, running for 402 yards and six touchdowns through Ohio State's first three games. But an injury the week leading up to the Northwestern game, alongside Carlos Hyde's reemergence, forced Hall further down the depth chart.
Hall got back on the field for his most extended action of Big Ten play, and he picked up right where he left off, running for 81 yards on just eight carries.
The 5'8", 193-pound running back got loose in the third quarter for a 41-yard gain, showing off the speed that makes him so dangerous. With Hyde, Dontre Wilson and Jordan Hall in the backfield, Ohio State's depth at running back is unreal.
Ohio State Could Be on a Collision Course with the Michigan Teams
The Buckeyes obviously have their season-ending clash with Michigan, which will take place on the road in Ann Arbor.
But Ohio State may be on a collision course with Michigan State.
The Spartans are the only team in the Legends Division who don't have a conference loss. Both Nebraska and Michigan have one defeat, so Michigan State is in the driver's seat for the division title.
The Spartans also caught a break from the scheduling gods, avoiding Ohio State, Wisconsin and Penn State from the Leaders Division. Michigan State will host the Wolverines and then travel to Nebraska in back-to-back weeks, and if it can survive that stretch, it'll cruise into Indianapolis.
Ohio State, of course, would have to take care of business, but as of right now, it looks like an Ohio State-Michigan State Big Ten title game is on the horizon.
Unless noted otherwise, all stats per NCAA.com.
David Regimbal is the Ohio State Football Lead Writer for Bleacher Report.
Follow him on Twitter @davidreg412.
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