By Nathan Junk ’19
The post-season ambitions and championship hopes of the 2016 Ohio State football season took a turn for the worse on Saturday, Oct. 22. The number two ranked Buckeyes ventured to Beaver Stadium in State College, PA to face the unranked Penn State Nittany Lions.
The Buckeyes maintained a narrow lead throughout the game, and it looked like they would narrowly escape a game they were projected to win by 18 points.
However, late in the fourth quarter, Penn State blocked a would-be Ohio State field goal and returned it for a touchdown to take a 24-21 lead. Ohio State attempted to put together a late offensive drive to tie or potentially win the game, but the defense of the Nittany Lions was too much for the Bucks to handle.
The final score of the ESPN primetime game was 24-21 in favor of Penn State. Many fans and football followers were quick to write off the remainder of the Buckeyes season given this loss.
Even with a loss to an unranked Penn State team, Ohio State’s college football playoff hopes are very much alive. Heisman trophy contending quarterback J.T. Barrett continues to lead the Buckeye offense with great success, and linebacker Raekwon McMillan and safety Malik Hooker continue to make plays on the defensive side of the ball.
In order for Ohio State to make the four team college football playoff, they would have to win out the rest of their challenging schedule and win the ever so elusive Big Ten Championship.
The Michigan Wolverines, commonly known as “that team up north” by the Buckeye faithful, are currently ranked number two in the nation and will travel to Ohio Stadium on Nov. 26 for the annual rivalry game between the two schools. This rivalry is arguably the biggest in all of college football, and the game this year will likely make or break Ohio State’s season. Assuming they win the rest of their games leading up to Michigan, which include a prime time matchup versus number seven Nebraska on Nov. 5, a win versus Michigan would likely propel Ohio State into the Big Ten championship game where they would be poised to make the college football playoff and compete for the National Championship. If they were to lose, they would likely attend an average bowl game with no hopes for a national title.
Fear not Buckeye fans, the season is far from over. The Big Ten and National Championship are well within our reach, all we have to do is continue to win, and beat that team up north.