(Fun fact: These pictures were both taken during games in which teams from Ohio were beating the Pennsylvania powers on their home fields.)
Entries in Penn State (8)
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
Though Penn State's resurgence the last five years has been nice and all, the Nittany Lions have suffered from a little Ohio State Syndrome in that span.
Like the Big Ten-rival Buckeyes, PSU has beaten just about everyone it's supposed to beat, but most of its 13 losses the last five seasons have come against elite foes. Perhaps that's better than losing to scrubs, but at some point you have to beat elite teams to be considered elite. And Penn State couldn't get a better chance to prove itself than the one it gets on Sept. 11.
One Great Season
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Ohio State's win at Penn State wasn't as shocking as No. 4 Iowa's upset loss to Northwestern 800 miles away, but where the Buckeyes suddenly find themselves now might seem a surprise to some.
GAMEDAY GALLERY: OSU Handles Penn State, 24-7
Visiting OSU muscled its way to a 24-7 defeat of the Nittany Lions in a matchup of the Big Ten's elite, if there could be such a thing this year. In the process, the Buckeyes ripped control of the Big Ten race from Iowa, which saw its 13-game winning streak end at home Saturday. The Hawkeyes limp into what promises to be a raucous Ohio Stadium next week without its starting quarterback, Ricky Stanzi, as both teams have just two league games left. The winner goes to the Rose Bowl.
After OSU's the-world-is-ending loss at Purdue last month, those Buckeyes fans still interested in following their favorite team to a bowl game were thinking an early morning game in Florida on New Year's Day.
But after thoroughly exposing Penn State in front of 110,000 of its loyals on a gorgeous afternoon that turned into a perfectly crisp football evening, Ohio State drives home with a full tank of confidence to go along with a nasty defense that shut down the Big Ten's top attack.
+ GALLERY: Celebrities Who Have Nothing To Do With College Football
+ DISCUSSION: The Top 10 Coaches Of College Football
+ GALLERY: Fans Rock Costumes at USC-Oregon Game
+ VIDEO: FOX19 Morning Show Appearance
+ VIDEO: VaTech Fan Gets Belligerent On GaTech Fan
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+ QUIZ: Who Are The 30 Thousand Helpers?
Meanwhile, all eyes were on Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor, who said this week he was desperate to earn his first big win as OSU's quarterback. The nimble sophomore ran for a short touchdown early, then threw for two more in the second half when the visitors turned a tight game into a comfy one for the few thousand scarlet-sweatered supporters who made the trip from Ohio to Happy Valley. It was more like Empty Valley with about five minutes left as fans started to make their way out, knowing that a run at a Big Ten championship will have to wait until next year.
What won't have to wait until next year is Ohio State's push for Pasadena. After the Iowa game next week, the Buckeyes close with their traditional season-ender at Michigan, whose Wolverines have been embarrassed each of the last two Saturdays.
Special to One Great Season
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The image is indelible.
Then-freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor sitting with his Ohio State helmet still on, unable to look across the field at the team he just did battle with. His head in his hands.
A year ago against Penn State, Pryor was a broken man. His fumble led to a game-winning touchdown drive for the Nittany Lions.
His desperation heave to the end zone in the Columbus night fell into the arms of Penn State cornerback Lydell Sargeant. It's the kind of moment that should Pryor never defeat the Nittany Lions, blue and white fans will point to that as the genesis for why.
Should he extract revenge, say, this Saturday before 110,000 rabid, whited-out fans at Beaver Stadium, that lingering moment also will be a genesis for what transpires.
Pryor and No. 16 Ohio State find themselves squarely with the Big Ten destiny in their collective scarlet-and-gray-gloved hands. A win over Penn State and next week against Iowa, and the Buckeyes will share the conference crown with Iowa, but the Buckeyes would go to the Rose Bowl.
It's the redemption Pryor and Ohio State need; it's redemption a beleaguered conference has been seeking for sometime now.
Pryor, who wasn't made available to Penn State media members this week, spoke to BuckeyeGrove.com and expressed his desire to deliver.
"I haven't led us to a big win yet," Pryor told the site on Wednesday night. "That's what a quarterback needs to do, lead, and I haven't led us to a win in a big game yet."
It seems his every move has been scrutinized.
Does Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel use him properly? Can he develop into a pure quarterback? Can he, as Pryor himself suggests, win a big game?
By early Saturday evening some of those questions may be answered. But what we know now is that opposite of Pryor is a quarterback on the Penn State sideline who puts as much pressure on himself as the sophomore does. Clark wants to win just as badly, and, just like Pryor, is still in search of a signature win that will define his legacy.
For the 2009 season you could put Daryll Clark's numbers up against those of any quarterback in America. He's been better than Tim Tebow, he means just as much to his team as Colt McCoy and his ability to throw darts and rally his team may only be matched by Jimmy Clausen.
What Saturday's game comes down to might be a will to win. Can Pryor be patient and withstand a low-scoring game like he had to last year? Or will he grow antsy and look for the big play, which has been there at times this season, but not often enough that Ohio State's passing game lights up the stat sheet.
On the other side, can Clark control his emotions? He didn't finish last year's game in Columbus.
If Pryor wins he gets his marquee victory. If Clark is impressive in a Penn State win, he'll improve a potential Heisman candidacy.
"I think Daryll Clark has been an outstanding performer for us," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said this week. "It's hard to compare. I don't see all the other guys that people are talking about all the time. Every week it's a new list, from what I hear. I don't know. You turn on the tube, to get some sleep, and there are a couple of guys up there talking about, 'Let's hear your Heisman Trophy list,' and whose list is this and that. Daryll Clark is one heck of a football player."
But he still bears the weight of losses to Iowa the past two seasons. Right or wrong, his fault or not. What stands more important is that the winner of this game could strengthen a potential at-large BCS bid, as representatives from the Orange and Sugar bowls will be seated in the warmth of the Beaver Stadium press box.
And then you have the crowd factor.
So much adds up against Pyror -- the crowd, a red-hot opposing defense and his own offensive line which has left a lot to be desired. But good, bad or indifferent, that's just how he wants it.
Pryor and Tressel portray the image that they thrive on the pressure. That may be the case, but go back to last year's game where Paterno out-Tresseled Tressel.
"(Terrelle's) been under fire in his own mind since he got here," Tressel said. "He puts a lot of pressure on himself because he has high expectations for what he can do, and most importantly what he can do for the good of the team.
"If we are successful on a Saturday he feels as if it probably had his contribution and if we're not successful many times he feels as if he was the problem. That's the way competitors are."
Two competitors, on the Big Ten's biggest stage, battling in what should be another four quarters of physically grueling football, trying to answer one question.
Who has the stronger will to win?
Thomas writes for Blue White Illustrated.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Joe Paterno has been around long enough to have earned a few liberties, and it appeared he exercised some of those liberties at his weekly press conference Tuesday.
He didn't necessarily dress down a couple of reporters, but neither did he try to dance around a pair of questions he didn't feel like answering.
In the video below, Paterno tells a reporter it's silly to ask him a question by starting, "It seems to me," and in the second video below that, he said he'd rather compare two sportswriters' styles than compare his coaching style against that of Jim Tressel, who brings his No. 15 Buckeyes to Happy Valley for a huge Big 10 game Saturday afternoon.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
BATON ROUGE, La. -- Here are some notes as I begin a new week in Baton Rouge, five days away from Saturday's heavyweight bout between visiting No. 1 Florida and No. 4 LSU:
+ Cal is not a good football team. I strongly doubt that in the history of college football polls, a team has never followed up a No. 6 ranking by going out and losing two games by a combined score of 72-6.
+ From the sideline, I've watched USC in a Friday walkthrough and twice during pregame warmups, and Florida once during pregame warmups, and in each case you can't help but just feel that you're in the presence of an elite football team. Swagger isn't necessarily something a team has; to me it's more like what that team stirs inside of you when you watch it.
+ I get that powerhouses like to load up on a creampuff or two before playing someone tough or getting into conference play. But we're into October and I'm still really curious about what Texas can do. Beating a mediocre Texas Tech team by just 10 points at home tells me more about the Longhorns than do lopsided wins over Louisiana-Monroe and the like. I really think Alabama is more of a No. 2 team than Texas right now. The Tide don't appear to have any weaknesses.
+ The same goes for Penn State. Easy wins over Akron, Syracuse and Temple -- and presumably another one against Eastern Illinois this Saturday -- are unimpressive. I don't really remember the last time Joe Paterno had a strong team that played a marquee game in September.
+ Boise State won Saturday, but played poorly enough to drop from No. 5 to No. 6 in this week's poll. But despite the listless showing against Cal-Davis Saturday, the Broncos gain street cred when the Oregon team it manhandled five weeks ago won by huge margins its last two times out.
+ My Cincinnati friends are a little nervous about our No. 8 Bearcats' Thursday night tilt at South Florida on Oct. 15. UC is off this week, and then will face a USF team, though now ranked, that's without veteran quarterback Matt Grothe for the rest of the season. I think it could be like the season-opener at Rutgers all over again. Easy win for Cincinnati, which will take a 9-0 record into its home date against West Virginia on Friday, Nov. 13.
+ Seven of the AP's top 15 teams have a loss, and we still have more than two months of regular-season football left to play. Please stop describing the Armageddon when USC or Virginia Tech or Ohio State lose in September.
+ Iowa has more trouble with non-BCS teams than it does with the Penn States of the world. The Hawkeyes, 5-0, pulled off a stunner two weeks ago on the road when they beat the Nittany Lions, 21-10, but their two closest calls have come at home, where they defeated Northern Iowa and Arkansas State by one and three points, respectively. By that logic, look for Iowa to rout visiting Michigan this weekend. Actually, I believe the opposite to be true. The No. 12 Hawkeyes will bolster the argument that the Big Ten is weak when they lose to no-longer-ranked Michigan on Saturday.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
NEW YORK -- As you know, I'm not a big fan of the cheap and easy insults that fly around the blogosphere. Many, but not all, bloggers clamor for access to pro and college teams with little success, and while I'm a new member of the community, I feel like a 15-year news career means I'm qualified enough to assert that the mean-spirited nature of the genre doesn't help their cause.
Trash talking behind the safety of your laptop with somebody who you'll never see face to face is not a good look this fall.
An intelligent, or at least open-minded discourse is what I prefer, but then I have to remind myself that we're talking about college football. Fans of this particular entertainment form are not reasonable people. I'm not saying that to be cute; I really think fans of all sports can be idiots.
I once wore my Cleveland Indians cap to an interleague game at tradition-steeped Cinergy Field, Astroturf and all, against the Cincinnati Reds. It was sometime around 2000. It was a little later in the season, and I think the Indians were contending for a playoff spot. I watched a great battle between lefties Denny Neagle and Chuck Finley. Another lefty, Russell Branyan, came to bat with a man on first, two outs, and his Indians trailing, 2-1, in the top of the ninth.
Branyan lined a shot into the left-field corner that was an easy double. The Indians' third-base coach waved his guy home, but the left-fielder grabbed it cleanly, rifled a frozen walnut to Barry Larkin, who relayed home for the game-ending out at the plate. My squad lost, but more importantly, I'd just watched a great baseball game on a gorgeous Friday night in a playoff atmosphere at an otherwise boring ballpark.
And when trash talkers busted me for the logo they saw on my hat, it just sounded, felt and looked so juvenile. Does anyone's life truly get better or worse because a sports team full of people you'll never meet won or lost?
My point is this: root for your squad, for sure, but relax for a second and accept that you have nothing to do with your favorite team's success or the failure of its rivals.
I bring this up because although I've quickly become a fan of spartyandfriends.com, the Comments section after a Big Ten preview post has devolved into that oh-so-tiresome-my-conference-is-better-than-yours shouting match.
When will people start to accept the cyclical nature of things? All things come full circle. Do we not remember that elites like USC, Oklahoma and Penn State, for example, were down for a spell before a recent resurgence in the last decade?
I'm all for a hearty and spirited debate, but don't change the rules after it's started. If you want to blast Ohio State for losing four or five big games in the last three or four seasons, or the Big Ten overall for its inability to win bowl games, go ahead and do it. But if someone fires a shot at your squad for its own shortcomings in recent years, don't talk about all-time winning percentages, because that's a conversation for which Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State will all be glad to pull up a chair.
By JOHN P. WISE
One Great Season
NEW YORK -- It's amazing what we like to describe as "controversial."
Is it a surprise pick that Big Ten writers picked Ohio State to win the league? And that those same writers gave preseason offensive player of the year honors to OSU quarterback Terrelle Pryor? Both are slight surprises I think, but hardly controversial, as some bloggers are suggesting today.
+ YOUR THOUGHTS: Surprised at preseason picks?
+ ALSO: Big Ten Preview
Pryor had a good freshman season. He'll be a better passer in 2009 and will likely transition well from coddled young star to offensive leader. The athletic tools are already in place, and he showed good poise as a rookie last year. That trend will continue and he'll be the best player on what many think will be the best team in the league. It's not any crazier than a wideout from the fourth- or fifth-best team in the league (Arrelious Benn, Illinois) or a decent quarterback who lacks superstar potential -- Penn State's Darryl Clark -- being named.
I laugh when rich, old, white men in suits like to say their sport is for the fans. We all know it's really for the networks, but what are for the fans are silly preseason teams. They mean nothing. What means far more is what happens in the postseason, and I'm pretty sure if you check Google, you just be able to find, oh, maybe one or two or a million online jabs at the Big Ten's postseason track record in recent years.
For each team, a college season often shakes out as a reflection of how well your quarterback plays and how well your team performs on the road. If the slight advantage in the first category goes to Ohio State over Penn State, I think the same-sized cushion goes to the Nittany Lions in the second category, and for just one reason: Ohio State plays at Penn State in November.
We saw it in 2005 when the evenly matched Nittany Lions and Buckeyes played a tough game that Penn State won largely because of its home-field advantage. Both teams finished 7-1 in the conference, but PSU got the league's BCS bid and defeated Florida State in the Orange Bowl. I think Penn State wins the league because Ohio State has to visit Happy Valley this year. It's as simple as that.