The Ohio State – Penn State rivalry feels older than it really is. That’s because it’s now one of the biggest games in the country.
Wet and frozen, fans shivered beneath any sort of cover they could find.
It was 1993, and a mix of snow and rain covered the stands in Columbus, Ohio, as Ohio State and Penn State engaged in a slugfest on the field below. The weather had not extended much courtesy to the Nittany Lions in the first meeting between the two schools since Penn State joined the Big Ten, but neither did the Buckeyes on this day.
A first quarter drive spearheaded by Penn State quarterback Kerry Collins and tailback Ki-Jana Carter led to a field goal, but the Nittany Lions could muster just three more points across four quarters as the weather dropped in an increasing deluge. A persistent blanket of gray loomed overhead as the dominating Buckeyes’ defense, led by Dan Wilkinson, caused five turnovers and helped OSU stomp away with a 24-6 victory.
Ohio State running Raymont Harris, who ground up the Lions for 151 yards, had been unimpressed with PSU’s tradition and moxie. “We didn’t come into this game thinking, ‘Wow, this is Penn State, an icon from the past,’ ” Harris said. “Really, they were no more important than Purdue or Northwestern, or any other Big Ten team.”
Only 329 miles separate the towns of State College, Pa., and Columbus, but prior to 1993, the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions had only met on eight occasions, with Penn State taking six of them. Ohio State’s lone wins came in ’75 and ‘76, when Woody Hayes toppled Joe Paterno in consecutive years. As good as the teams have been, the blue bloods have met in the postseason only once, when Penn State toppled the Buckeyes 31-19 in the 1980 Fiesta Bowl. “Penn State-Ohio State is a young rivalry that is still, in some ways, a teenager compared to the more established and more historic series,” wrote Matt Brown for Sportsonearth.com.
The two teams have met every year since 1993, and the series has seen its share of milestones and big games. Paterno’s 2001 team overcame a 27-9 third-quarter deficit to defeat the Buckeyes 29-27 in State College and secure his 324th win as a head coach, passing Alabama’s Paul “Bear” Bryant as the all-time leader in coaching victories. In 19 of the 33 games between the schools, both teams have been ranked, and on five occasions, one of the teams was ranked No. 1 in the country.
Recently the series had been trending in the direction of Ohio State—4-1 in the last five meetings and 6-3 in the last 10 (its 2010 win was vacated in the wake of the Terrelle Pryor investigation)—until a blocked field goal return in 2016 stopped the momentum:
The last two contests between the two schools have been instant classics. After the aforementioned 2016 game, Ohio State returned the favor last year with a 29-28 thriller in Columbus.
With all apologies to the good folks of Ann Arbor, the Ohio State-Penn State game has become the biggest in the Big Ten. Not necessarily the most heated or intense, but the biggest. Sure, it’s not the old days with Woody Hayes and Joe Paterno at the helm, but with coaches Urban Meyer and James Franklin leading their respective teams, this game is certain to be a barnburner with playoff implications. And, due to Penn State’s swift rise from the ashes to perpetual contender status, the game is now one of the biggest in the country between two schools that play one another on a regular basis.
Ohio State now leads the all-time series 18-14, and year by year, the animosity increases. To put things in perspective, a Buckeye fan was recently asked about the rivalry with PSU. Make no mistake: the feelings are not tepid.
“We hate them and they hate us,” the fan summarized.
But not as much as you hate Michigan, right?
“Not even close.” H&A
Kickoff for 4 Ohio State – 9 Penn State is 6:30 p.m. CST on ABC.
All photos courtesy Ohio State Athletics
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