OSU vs PSU - The "Cover Up Bowl" 2018
In anticipation, fans have been calling the upcoming Ohio State vs. Penn State game, “The Cover Up” bowl. While the staff that facilitated Penn State’s child abuse scandal are no longer there and James Franklin has ushered in a new era of Penn State football, many still feel that Urban Meyer deserved a harsher punishment for his alleged cover up of domestic abuse within his coaching staff. Off-the-field controversies aside, this game will have a decisive impact on the entire 2018 season. Both teams are currently undefeated, but also enjoyed easy opponents last week in Tulane and Illinois.
The first Ohio State-Penn State Match-Up was a Blood Bath
Historically, Penn State and Ohio State have a long-standing rivalry that dates back to 1912 when Penn State, coming off an 8–0–1 season in 1911, shut out Ohio State, 37–0. The entire game was a bloodbath with Penn State's Al Wilson getting knocked out cold and losing several teeth. Red Bebout (who later died in World War I) was severely lacerated from being stomped in the face. But this was 1912 so both men sucked it up and got back in the game.
With about nine minutes left in the game, Ohio State player was viciously laid out during a kickoff. Coach Richards screamed illegal blocking, but no penalty was called. He had had enough and walked his Ohio State team off the field, even as the judge informed him that he would be automatically forfeit the game before time expired.
So the Penn State players walked about the field as the hometown fans threw insults and debris at them. One PSU fan came down out of the stands and began to rush them, but was knocked him out cold with a single right fist by assistant coach Dick Farlow. Police rushed the field to surround the Penn State players and protect them as fans grabbed some blue and white bunting under one of the goalposts and set it on fire. The game was such an insult to both teams that it would be another 44 years until the Buckeyes and Nittany Lions would meet again. They would only play each other sporadically before 1993 when Penn State joined the Big Ten.
Paterno vs. Tressel vs. Franklin vs. Meyer
For an entire decade between 2001 and 2010, Joe Paterno and Jim Tressel enjoyed an intense in-conference rivalry. In fact, Penn State's "whiteout" tradition, which is being revived this Saturday, was born out of this rivalry in 2005, when Penn State upset the then-favored Buckeyes 17–10 in State College with the help of a of a loud and boisterous home crowd. All in all, Tressel finished this 10-year rivalry on top with 7 wins to Paterno's 3 (if you count the Ohio State wins vacated in 2010).
In the aftermath of Penn State's prolific scandal and the emergence of the Coach Urban Meyer era in 2013, Ohio State served Penn State's their worst loss, and most points scored against the team, since 1899 by beating them 63-14. Under Coach Franklin, Penn State has only beaten Ohio State once in 2016, but came incredibly close last year, only losing by 1 point. Here's a recap of this shoot-out below. Now the Buckeyes are the ones still reeling from a largely publicized scandal and Penn State is enjoying incendiary success with their relatively new coach James Franklin.
Penn State's Odds
First off, the game is going to take place at Beaver Stadium, giving the Nittany Lions the home field advantage. The last time Penn State hosted Ohio State, they beat the then No. 2 ranked Buckeyes 24-21, outscoring them 17-0 in the fourth quarter and taking the lead with 4:27 remaining on a blocked field goal that was returned for a touchdown. The odds were against them then and the odds are against them now, but statistically underdogs with big offenses like Penn State often deliver big upsets.
The Nittany Lions allowed 23 points by the unranked Fighting Illini last week, and nearly lost their season opener to App State, 45-38. By no means, is Franklin's defense vulnerable, but with only 3 returning starters, he's been doing a lot of swapping and shifting to develop his backups. So far, it's been working and if this game was later in the season, I probably wouldn't even question Penn State's defensive unit against Haskins and the Ohio State offense.
After their win against the Fighting Illini, James Franklin admitted to the press, “we have starters, and we have guys we’re rotating in, but I don’t know if anybody’s separated themselves from the pack. And I think that’s probably some our challenges there. Having a guy who you know is running the defense and can be an eraser for you in terms of making plays, we’re not there yet.”
Ohio State's Odds
QB Dwayne Haskins has been extremely impactful in his first four career starts, averaging 10.4 yards per attempt and completing 76 percent of pass attempts. He is currently ranked second in the nation with 16 touchdown passes, while only throwing a single interception. Aside from the likes of Alabama, there are few teams in the NCAA that could conceivably stop Haskins in the passing game.
Ohio State became the target of unrelenting moral outrage following their decision to keep Meyer as head coach, so they are probably doing everything in their power to make that decision count. Moreover, the 2016 loss to Penn State on the road was Urban Meyer's first true road loss as the esteemed head coach of Ohio State. For Coach Meyer, this game is about more than the rivalry or making playoffs, it's about his legacy.
Ohio State football should have running back Mike Weber and defensive tackle Robert Landers back this week against Penn State, but will still be without junior DE Nick Bosa due to his recent surgery to repair a "core muscle" injury. Bosa was considered to be a central part of the Ohio State defensive unit, and they will need every defensive weapon available against Franklin's highly productive offense.
Which ever way the wind blows, Penn State's offense is going to put Ohio State's defense to the test. But with two of the most productive offenses in the nation, it is going to be up to Penn State's rotation-heavy defensive unit to find their rhythm and stick to it in order to stop QB Dwayne Haskins if they want to pull of an upset. It's going to be a loud and high scoring shoot out between two teams who began their century-old rivalry with a literal bloodbath. Two Top 10 teams will enter Beaver Stadium on September 29th, 7:30 pm ET and only one will leave with an undefeated record.
This battle will also serve as a major recruiting showcase, as Penn State is expected to host several of its top targets from various classes. The winner of this matchup will move forward as the favorite to win a Big Ten title in December.
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