Final scores can be so deceiving sometimes.
No. 12 Ohio State crushed No. 20 Michigan State 45-7 on Saturday. No. 3 Penn State routed Michigan 46-17.
The Buckeyes looked like they were clicking on all cylinders. They put the game away in the second quarter then sleepwalked to the finish line.
The Nittany Lions looked out of synch for the first time all season. They fell behind 17-7 to a team that lost to Toledo last week and took until late in the third quarter to finally gain the lead, at which point they finally poured it on.
The two teams square off next Saturday in Columbus in the Big Ten's Game of the Year. The winner will put itself squarely in the driver's seat for the Rose Bowl (and in Penn State's case, the Nittany Lions can give themselves a shot at a potential undefeated regular season and BCS title berth).
Based on the teams' performances over the course of the season prior to Saturday, Penn State figured to be the prohibitive favorite. Based on the teams' performances Saturday ... who knows?
It may well turn out that neither performance was indicative of anything, but it certainly clouds the forecast for next week's showdown in Columbus.
Terrelle Pryor, the Buckeyes quarterback who looked so shaky in last week's uninspiring 17-6 win over Purdue, came out smoking against the Spartans. He racked up 175 rushing/passing yards in staking his team to a 28-0 lead midway through the second quarter.
Daryll Clark, the Penn State QB who has looked so smooth running the Nittany Lions' spread offense all season, was rendered a complete non-factor for most of the first half against Michigan, as the Wolverines jumped to a 17-7 lead.
Ohio State, which held Spartans star Javon Ringer to 66 yards on 16 carries, played the type of suffocating defense many expected coming into the season (before that infamous USC beatdown), holding the Spartans to 240 yards. The Wolverines, whose undermanned offense has been beyond inept all season, marched down the field against the Nittany Lions for three straight scoring drives spanning 208 yards to start the game.
Interesting timing, huh?
The best news for Penn State on Saturday was that Ohio State won. It makes next week's game that much bigger and gives the Nittany Lions a chance for a much-needed statement victory. (Penn State entered Saturday having played the nation's 84th toughest schedule, according to CollegeBCS.com.) Of course, if the Nittany Lions were to blow out the Buckeyes, it would only add to the Buckeyes' already lingering national stigma.
It's all so confusing it makes your head spin -- and Saturday's results did not help.