As someone born and raised in Ohio, this game always hits home for me. Although I was never truly an OSU fan, I do admit that I still root for them from time to time…except when playing PSU. Of course, it’s hard to ignore the excitement surrounding Saturday’s battle at Beaver Stadium. Undefeated OSU (8-0; 4-0) comes to Happy Valley to take on the new and improved Nittany Lions (5-2; 3-0).
Notes for Saturday:
Ineligible Bowl — both teams are banned from playing in bowl games this season and both teams are undefeated in conference play. Winner of this game takes top spot in the leaders division, which PSU and OSU are eligible to win (just not able to play in conference championship game).
Whiteout — Need I say more? In the last 11 games played between OSU and PSU, only once was their less than 105,000 fans in attendance (104,947 in 1994). Expect full capacity on this one. Two of the best fan bases in the country.
Braxton Miller? – It appeared Miller was going to be out for the year. Barely able to walk, carted away, and then sent via ambulance to the local hospital. It was the last thing OSU needed. Their best player, main offense weapon off the field. Fortunately, back-up QB Kenny Guiton is no smuck. With less than a minute to go in the game against Purdue, Guiton drove the field, took the game to OT and won. Yet, Buckeye fans waited anxiously in the hours that followed to hear the status of their star Braxton Miller. Symptom free. A big relief. PSU wants to play OSU at its best….and that means Braxton Miller on the field. Whether Miller is a 100% on Saturday is the big question mark. It sounds like he’ll definitely play, but don’t be surprised to see Guiton take some snaps.
The big issue I have here is the “phantom” injury. I’m still a bit perplexed on the odd “absolutely no symptoms” diagnosis. Did you see him get carted off the field? The guy was clearly in pain, could barely stand, and yet no medical explanation? Really? I might be a skeptic, but you can’t deny the odd chain of events where Heisman candidate turns from star athlete to 90 year old man ….then back to star athlete over night. As if nothing occurred? No wonder we have mental issues in football….
No-huddle offense – similar tempo, but very different styles. OSU runs a fast paced no-huddle spread offense, mainly via the legs and arms of Braxton Miller. In contrast, PSU runs the no-huddle using a pro-style offense, focusing on efficient passes and TEs. OSU has more big plays (>;50 yard) whereas PSU is more methodical and consistent. OSU has more yards on the ground while PSU has more yards in the air. It’ll be interesting to see which has more success this weekend.
Meyer vs. O’Brien, Part 1 – This will be the first of hopefully many match-ups between the two first year head coaches. Meyer has a proven track record of success and brings an impressive 8-0 record to Happy Valley. He worked his way up through the ranks, once a young assistant coach at OSU in the 1980s and now back to the Buckeye state as head coach. His record speaks for itself – 112-23 overall, 7-1 in bowls, 2 national championships (2006, 2008).
O’Brien started his coaching career at his alma mater Brown University in the early 1990s. He held several college coaching positions (Georgia Tech, Maryland, Duke) before joining the Patriots coaching staff in 2007. Unlike Meyer, this season is O’Brien’s first season ever as a head coach. Not the ideal situation for any head football coach, let alone a first year head coach, but O’Brien has demonstrated time and time again that he’s the right man for the job. O’Brien has PSU winning again and for many PSU fans, that’s all that matters.
Behind the scenes, Meyer is slowly building a juggernaut program (as is the school up ‘North’). Already in his first year as OSU coach, Meyer has one of the top recruiting classes in the nation. Kids want to play for Meyer and their coming from all over the country. Heck, take a look at the 2012 class. Noah Spence (5 star), Camren Williams (4 star), Tommy Schutt (4 star), Armani Reeves (4 star), and Joey O’Connor (4 star) all committed to PSU, but all withdrew their commitment and signed with OSU. Of course, you can’t blame these kids for decommitting due to the uncertainty surrounding the PSU program at that time, but to see what was arguably the top 5 PSU recruits withdraw their committment and head to OSU is a sign of what O’Brien will be faced with in the years to come. O’Brien has done a phenomenal job promoting PSU, perhaps a bigger challenge will be convincing the state’s top recruits to play at PSU. Adam Breneman may be the poster child for PSU football, but with scholarship limitations and bowl bans, O’Brien has a significant disadvantage in recruiting in-state stars. Meyer knows it and will be ready to hand pick players.
Which brings us back to Saturday. If O’Brien wins, it would be huge for the program. Sure, it’s one game, but it’ll serve as a symbol that PSU is a serious contender. PSU expects anywhere from 60-100 recruits at the game too, some already committed but many on the edge or interested. Beating OSU in front of 108,000 fans decked out in white is a great selling point. On the other hand, a OSU win reminds viewers that they’re still the best in the Big Ten.
Prediction — I expect a battle royale. Penn State has not beaten OSU at Beaver Stadium since 2005. Now with both teams ineligible for post season play, this is biggest game of the year for PSU, but not OSU. I’m an Ohioan born and raised, ask any Buckeye fan what is the biggest game of the year – it’s always Michigan. Not to say that this isn’t a big game for OSU, but it’s a bigger game for PSU. Keep that in mind, because when you’re playing a game that you know is the biggest game of the year, you give it everything you’ve got. And for seniors, it’s the last whiteout of your college career against the best team in the conference — don’t leave anything behind. Therefore, this week my prediction is not based on stats, records, or even talent for that matter. This week I’m basing my prediction on mentality….mindset….drive. No score predictions, no spread predictions. Penn State wins because they want it more – that is all.