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What have been the best Ohio State-Penn State matchups since 1996?

Why 1996 you ask? Well, read the article to find out.

Ohio State v Penn State Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

Ohio State will be hosting a “Scarlet Out” this Saturday as they host the Penn State Nittany Lions. Now, this isn’t the first time that OSU has busted out some neat looks against Penn State. Over the years, they’ve had some pretty nice uniforms and games against the team from Happy Valley.

Since the first game the two played against each other in 1912, a game the Nittany Lions won 37-0, to the current four game winning streak the Buckeyes are currently on, there is always an added level of excitement when these two teams take to the field.

Here are some fun (loose definition required) tidbits about the series:

  • Ohio State scored 13 total points in the first four games the two teams played against each other.
  • Saturday night’s game will be the 22nd time the two teams have faced off as ranked opponents.
  • Only three times have the two programs faced off when neither was ranked.
  • An unranked Penn State team upset a ranked Ohio State team in three of the first four games in the series.
  • The programs have faced off nine times with both teams ranked in the top 10.
  • In the history of the series, Penn State has been ranked first in the country once and Ohio State has been the top-ranked team in the country four times. The team ranked first has never lost in the series.
  • The longest winning streak by either team is four games and it has happened three times. Once by Penn State to start the series and twice by Ohio State, from 2012-15 and from 2017 to present. If Ohio State wins on Saturday, they will secure the longest winning streak in the series.
  • Ohio State leads the series 21-14.

With the next game in the series coming up, we decided to take you through the best five games of my lifetime; which felt like a fun way to break it up. For transparency purposes, I am 25 and was born in 1996, so that is where we will cut this off.

Please don’t tell me I am an idiot for not mentioning a game in 1815. This is also an opinion piece, so if you have any others feel free to drop a comment and tell me why I’m wrong.


5.) Oct. 25, 2014 | No. 13 Ohio State 31, Penn State 24 (2OT)

This was the double overtime game that ended on the infamous Joey Bosa let-me-push-the-lineman-into-the-quarterback-sack. That, of course, was an all-time incredible play, but the rest of the game was pretty boring so it comes in at No. 5.

Ohio State entered the game ranked 13th in the country after their early season loss to Virginia Tech and was 5-1 on the season. Penn State was unranked and entered at 4-2. This game was in Happy Valley, so the environment was loud and rowdy and really affected the Buckeyes early. This was also the game that I think really woke up Ohio State before they went on to win the inaugural College Football Playoff.

In what was maybe the worst game between quarterbacks in the series, Ohio State freshman quarterback J.T. Barrett was 12-for-19 for 74 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions. Christian Hackenburg was 31-for-49 for 224 yards, 1 touchdown, and 2 interceptions.

Like he did a lot that season, Ezekiel Elliot was most of the Buckeyes’ offense, recording 26 carries for 109 yards and a touchdown. For Penn State, current Denver Bronco DaeSean Hamilton had 14 catches for 126 yards.

Ohio State held a 17-0 lead at the half, but after a Penn State interception return for a touchdown, a Hackenburg touchdown pass to Saeed Blacknall, and a field goal, the two teams went to overtime tied up at 17.

In overtime, Barrett rushed for two touchdowns and after the aforementioned Bosa sack, the Buckeyes prevailed, preserving their chance to with that eventual national title.


4.) Oct. 11, 1997 | No. 2 Penn State 31, No. 7 Ohio State 27

This is the oldest matchup on the list, and the only one that wasn’t in the past seven years, but this was a good one.

Now let me admit. No, I didn’t watch the game live, I was two. But I have watched this game on tape so I can speak on it. Moving on.

Ohio State was coming off of a Rose Bowl win the past season and both teams were looking to contend for a national title. Penn State jumped ahead early, going up 10-0 after their first two possessions. Ohio State clawed their way back in, making the game 17-13 at the half. David Boston gave the Buckeyes the 20-17 lead halfway through the third quarter.

Ohio State went up 27-17 and then Penn State running back Aaron Harris broke off a signature run, taking the Nittany Lion deficit down to just three points. With 10 minutes left in the game, Curtis Enis scored for Penn State and sealed the 31-27 Penn State win. Enis finished with 23 carries for 211 yards.

After an LSU loss the same day, Penn State became the number one team in the country. However, they suffered two conference losses on the season (Michigan and Michigan State), killing any chance they had at a national championship.


3.) Oct. 22, 2016 | Penn State 24, No. 2 Ohio State 21

Ah. You knew this one was coming. A “great game” is probably not the way Buckeye fans remember it, but it was objectively a great game.

Not for Trace McSorley however, as he was just 8-for-23 for 154 yards and a touchdown. Saquon Barkley ran for 99 yards on 12 carries. Some have argued that he should have touched the ball more and they would be right.

OSU QB Barrett was 28-for-43 for 245 yards and a touchdown and Curtis Samuel led the Buckeyes on the ground with 71 yards on just two carries and added 68 yards receiving. Ohio State went up 12-0 early in the game and entered the fourth quarter leading 21-7. Penn State scored 10 unanswered as the Buckeyes were looking to add a field goal that would have given them a 27-17 advantage. However, the Nittany Lions blocked the attempt and Grant Haley famously returned it 60 yards for the touchdown.

On the next drive, Ohio State took three minutes off the clock and turned the ball over on downs, ending the game and their championship hopes.


2.) Sept. 29, 2018 | No. 4 Ohio State 27, No. 9 Penn State 26

Ok, that’s enough of those painful Penn State victories. Turning to 2018, this is the second game in a row that Ohio State won by one point and James Franklin again made questionable offensive decisions down the stretch, *cough* running a draw on fourth and nine right at Chase Young *cough*.

The Buckeyes survived a career night from McSorley, who threw for 286 yards and ran for 145 more, and another game that the Buckeyes seemed drowned before they staged a furious comeback. This time, it was Dwayne Haskins who shook off some early mistakes to end up throwing for 270 yards and three touchdowns.

This one was pretty much even up until the fourth quarter, when Penn State jumped out to a 26-14 lead after a Miles Sanders touchdown. However, OSU’s Binjimen Victor scored an impressive touchdown from 47 yards out and then, with just two minutes left, Buckeye receiver K.J. Hill scored on a perfect pass from Haskins and the Buckeyes survived.


1.) Oct. 28, 2017 | No. 6 Ohio State 39, No. 2 Penn State 38

There is a chance that this list is biased because I was at this game. But honestly, I am sure it was just as amazing on TV. This was a game full of incredible moments, top teams, future NFL players and of course, Gus Johnson had the call. Is there anything better? Even the grey uniforms were crispy.

The game started off with a bang, as Barkley (a name Ohio State fans were happy to see take his talents to the NFL) took the opening kickoff 100 yards to give Penn State an immediate lead. After a 35-yard Barkley (my earlier point proven) touchdown run early in the second quarter, Penn State went up 21-3 and you could hear a pin drop in the stadium.

Then, enter Barrett. Everyone has their own opinions on where No. 16 stands in the annuls of Ohio State football history, but one thing no one can deny is that this was his Superman performance.

Barrett was 33-for-39 for 328 yards and four touchdowns on the night; he also ran for 95 yards. Down 35-20 entering the final quarter, Barrett threw for three TDs in the final frame and the Buckeyes outscored Penn State 19-3 in the final 10 minutes to win the game.

Unfortunately, Iowa stomped them the next week to essentially end the season, but man that Penn State win was fun.

It is yet to be seen if Saturday brings this much excitement, but a Buckeye beatdown of Penn State would be just as exciting as — and less stressful than — a lot of these close games were.