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Ohio State, Penn State is a one-sided rivalry

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The fans have spoken, and they don’t care much about Penn State.

NCAA Football: Ohio State at Penn State Matthew O’Haren-USA TODAY Sports

“A study from two professors, examining sports rivalries in professional sports leagues and college football, ranked Ohio State vs. Penn State as the second-most unbalanced rivalry in the Big Ten.”
-Joey Kaufman, Columbus Dispatch

Ohio State’s upcoming match-up against Penn State will likely be the biggest of the season. And honestly it’s been that way for a while. That team up North hasn’t beaten OSU since 2011, and before that it was 2003. Penn State has defeated the Buckeyes twice that amount in the same period, and even came to the Shoe twice to do it. The poor Michiganders haven’t seen that in 20 years.

Even in the most recent history, Penn State has been the far bigger threat. The Scarlet and Gray barely scrapped by with one singular point the difference the last two years, both needing sizable comebacks to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat. Then in 2016 a blocked field goal shocked OSU to its core, and would be the Buckeyes only regular season loss that year.

Compare that to Michigan, who have suffered a couple 20+ point blowouts since their last win against Ohio State, giving the Buckeyes a double digit average margin of victory in that time frame.

But even despite all that, besides from a purely football perspective, the state of Ohio doesn’t really care about Penn State. Like at all. There’s always been a feeling in the general public that Penn State cared a lot more about OSU then vice-versa, and some of their fans will even claim to be a bigger rival to Ohio State than Michigan. But now we have numbers, and they don’t look good for the Pennsylvanians.

Using data collected at knowrivalry.com, its clear that Ohioans only have one team on the brain, and it’s exactly who you would expect. Fans collectively decided to allocate 90.71 out of 100 “rivalry points” to the Wolverines. That doesn’t leave a lot for any one else. And yet, Penn State doesn’t even register as second on the hate scale, that honor going to Wisconsin. Penn State came in third at a measly 3.51 points.

On the flip side, Ohio State takes the top spot in the heads of the Nittany Lions, with fans allocating 37.43 points to the Buckeyes. That 33.92 difference was the second biggest in the Big Ten, with Michigan State and Michigan being the only bigger disparity.

Now honestly this isn’t so much Penn State shaking their sticks at clouds as it is OSU fans having a single minded hatred towards Michigan. It’s only natural, with it being a relationship that has persisted over 100 years. It’s also why it’s the best rivalry in all of sports. That’s supported by the data too, as the 90 points Ohio State gave Michigan is the most of any team of any sport covered by the site.

Needless to say, Penn State has a ton of ground to cover become the Buckeyes greatest rival. At the same time given the way the Michigan and Penn State programs have been going these days who knows. Maybe in a couple decades Penn State might become something more than an afterthought.


“There’s a scenario where Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields would be walking into Ohio Stadium as an opponent on Saturday. Fields was once committed to Penn State before decommitting and choosing Georgia.”

-Stephen Means, Cleveland.com

Wow, we really dodged a bullet on that one. Fields has been nothing short of incredible this year, the stats truly boggle the mind. He has one interception on the year, versus 31 touchdowns. Joe Burrows doubled Fields season interceptions in his last game, just saying. And if you bring rushing into the mix, they both have 41 total scores. I didn’t think we’d see another OSU quarterback with 50+ touchdowns after Haskins, but here we are one season after.

With an injury to Tua Tagovailoa and Chase Young getting hit with a suspension, Fields has taken a firm hold on second place in the Heisman. With spectacular performances against two more top 15 opponents, we could easily see OSU’s first Heisman since Troy Smith in 2006.

Instead, with just a few dominoes falling different ways, Penn State’s Justin Fields could be giving the Lion their first Heisman since John Cappelletti in 1973. It almost hurts to say. Penn State got to Fields early, when he was just a little-known sophomore, and by Fields own admission he had a great relationship with the Penn State coaches and the other recruits. If then Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead doesn’t take a head coaching job at Mississippi State, we might be going into Saturday with Tate Martell facing off against Fields on the other side. One shudders at the thought.


“Uhh. Why does it have to be a four-quarter game?”
- Ohio State running back J.K. Dobbins via Doug Lesmerises, Cleveland.com

We’ve been going all year saying that “this game is the one” or “finally a true test”, but 11 weeks have passed and the Buckeyes haven’t had a game much more demanding than the two byes. Cincinnati, Nebraska, Michigan State, Northwestern, Wisconsin, all of these teams were early threats, games many circled and thought “trap game.” OSU has won those games 214-27.

Does that change this week? I honestly doubt it. The OSU starters haven’t made it 60 minutes yet, and I see that streak continuing. Dobbins does as well. And honestly Vegas does too, with the Buckeyes 19.5 point favorites. That spread is bigger than the one against Wisconsin and about the same as it was versus Michigan State. We know how those turned out.

Remember that Indiana team that Ohio State drubbed 51-10? They took Penn State to the limit last week 34-27. And the Minnesota team that handed Penn State their one loss proved to be a bit fake like most in the nation thought, dropping a game to Iowa.

That’s not to say upsets don’t happen. As a team that is perennially ranked in the top four but has only been the playoffs twice, Buckeye fans know that more than honestly a lot of people. But I don’t think I’m shocking anyone by saying this OSU team feels a bit different.

So Fields and Dobbins and Young get another game where they can’t add to their already lofty totals. It’s been said by many, but if those three actually played some competitive games this year, they could all be much more in the Heisman race then they are. Fields has been legendarily efficient, but is 52nd in passing yards. Dobbins is fifth in the nation in rushing but has over 50 carries less than everyone above him except Travis Etienne.

Of course, I can end up looking pretty silly this weekend. But this team feels another level of special. Part of that is because Ryan Day has done a masterful job of keeping his team focused and not overlooking anyone, not even Rutgers. But as a fan I’m allowed too, and for my money the first challenge for the Ohio State Buckeyes won’t come until December 28th.


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