The Penn State game in 2014 was a pivotal game for the fortunes of the Buckeyes. Through J.T. Barrett's leadership, a team that had suffered what most people saw as a back-breaking loss to Virginia Tech went into Happy Valley and came out clean. It was the beginning of a journey that led to a national title.
That seems a long way away right now.
Under Urban Meyer, Ohio State hadn't just survived tough road game tests; they thrived and proved their mettle time and time again as one of the premiere college football programs in the country. That they still are, but a road loss against Penn State – the first true road loss for Urban Meyer at Ohio State – is a blow to the aura that has been built up around the team.
Specifically, this is the first true road loss for Ohio State since the Michigan game in 2011, meaning that it's been nearly five years since the Buckeyes failed a test away from home.
At Michigan State in 2012, at Northwestern and Michigan in 2013, at Penn State and Michigan State in 2014, at Virginia Tech and Michigan in 2015, and at Oklahoma this season were all statement games. They helped prove to the rest of the college football world that Ohio State was once again a force to be reckoned with, and maybe more importantly, served as an important recruiting tool. Check it out, Ohio State just rolled into town. Let's see what Urban Meyer can do against the local guys.
In those games that I mentioned, Ohio State beat their opponents by an average of almost two touchdowns a game, mostly by winning through big plays on offense at crucial points in the game. That didn't happen last night.
This team has a lot to figure out in the coming weeks. The offensive line has been a sieve, wide receivers can't get any separation, and Curtis Samuel has been a ghost for huge portions of games. If they can fix those issues, the Buckeyes still have a chance to make a lot of noise in the Big Ten.
But it's going to take some time to rebuild the credibility that Urban Meyer has established on the road.