Tag Archives: Penn State

It wasn’t Ohio State’s “Brand” that Earned Playoff Berth

Ohio State was admitted into the 2016 College Football Playoff, the Buckeyes’ second appearance in three years and it wasn’t because of their iconic brand name.

The Buckeyes were simply one of the four best and most deserving teams in the country and boasted the most impressive resume outside of Alabama. Ohio State defeated three top-10 opponents in Wisconsin, Nebraska and Michigan and recorded the most impressive out of conference victory with their pummeling of Oklahoma in Norman, the defacto Big 12 champion.

With all of that being said, I understand the argument for Penn State to be included in the playoff instead of Ohio State. It’s just incorrect.  For the record, I think Penn State should be in the playoff after winning the toughest conference in the country and coming out of the toughest division in the nation, just not at Ohio State’s expense.

The fact is that Penn State lost two games this season and Ohio State lost one. That’s a big deal. Ohio State has no argument whatsoever if both teams have the same amount of losses. Head-to-head results on the field and conference championships are used to differentiate similar teams when their resumes are comparable.

While Penn State’s non-conference schedule is respectable that includes a close victory over AAC champion Temple and a close defeat to four-loss Pittsburgh, it’s not even comparable to the Buckeyes’ blowout of Oklahoma. Keep in mind this was also the first true road game for 16 of Ohio State’s 22 starters.

Now, some will argue that Penn State’s victory over the Buckeyes was fluky and that Ohio State controlled the majority  of the game. This is all true, but Penn State won the football game. However, that doesn’t make Penn State better or even more deserving of a playoff spot with two losses. Thanks to Penn State’s rise from mediocrity, the Buckeyes possess the best overall loss concerning any of the one-loss teams.

Penn State lost to a mediocre Pitt team and was destroyed by Michigan 49-10. Should that be excusable because it was before Penn State got hot and won nine consecutive games? When Ohio State lost to Virginia Tech in 2014, it was a bad loss, but it was their only loss. I realize Pitt traveled to Death Valley and beat Clemson, but they also lost four games and surrendered 61 points to Syracuse at home.

If you want to say that if the resumes were reversed and Ohio State had two losses with a victory over Penn State and a Big Ten title, it would be the Buckeyes still claiming a spot in the playoff based on their brand, you’re wrong. First of all, if Ohio State lost to Michigan 49-10, that’s an absurd concept and the Buckeyes would surely never get in based on that result alone.

The Penn State argument is that their losses were early in the season so let’s say Ohio State lost to Pitt and Wisconsin and Penn State’s only loss was to the Buckeyes. The Nittany Lions still have the better resume even if Ohio State wins the Big Ten title with two losses and an even better loss because of how highly ranked Ohio State was to begin the season.

The only reason Ohio State leapfrogged TCU in 2014 to make the playoff is because both teams had one loss and the 59-0 victory over Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship Game was used as the deciding factor. Sure, it will always be debatable as to why TCU dropped with a similar margin of victory against Iowa State on the same day, but nevertheless, head-to-head victories and conference championships put a team over the top when overall record and resumes are near identical.

That’s just not the case with Ohio State and Penn State. The selection committee factors in the entire regular season and not just the last nine weeks. Whether it’s Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State or Washington, not one of those teams would have been a home underdog to Maryland at any point during the season and that’s exactly what Penn State was in early October. It’s a moot point now, however it just goes to show you that you cannot earn a playoff appearance in September and October, but you can certainly lose the opportunity.

Last season, Michigan State defeated Iowa in the Big Ten title game with the Spartans going on to get trounced by Alabama in the playoff. Were Michigan State and Iowa truly the best two teams in the Big Ten? With the way everything unfolded, Penn State earned the right to ultimately win the Big Ten championship, but the two best teams in the Big Ten in 2016 were Ohio State and Michigan.

Ohio State is Ohio State because of their excellence on the field and overall body of work on a yearly basis. 2016 was no different as the Buckeyes truly earned their way into the playoff. The committee got it right.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

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Ohio State Not Playoff Worthy — Yet

The Ohio State Buckeyes need to forget about the College Football Playoff — at least for now.

Playoff? You kidding me? Playoff? I just hope Ohio State can complete a pass.

The Buckeyes are by no stretch of the imagination out of the playoff picture and still have a very realistic chance of making it to the Big Ten championship, however, Ohio State is far from elite at this point in the season. Ohio State dropped to No. 6 in the latest AP poll. It was easy to excuse underwhelming performances against Indiana and Wisconsin. Even with an improved Indiana team, it’s difficult to get excited about a program of its caliber coming into your house, especially with the Buckeyes making their first conference road trip against a top-ten team in Wisconsin the following week.

As for the Wisconsin overtime thriller, the Badgers appear to be for real, and even though Ohio State played below their expectation for the majority of the game, a comeback victory on the road at Camp Randall was impressive. It gave us the impression that after Ohio State played so dominant early in the season, the Buckeyes won’t always play perfect, especially on the road but will come through and make the necessary plays when the game is on the line.

That was until the fourth quarter of Saturday night’s game in Happy Valley. Outside of a 74-yard touchdown run from under-utilized Curtis Samuel early in the second half, Ohio State’s play was porous against an inferior opponent. As bad as the Buckeyes played, they still found themselves with a two-touchdown lead in the fourth quarter. This wasn’t a case of Ohio State playing poorly and Penn State executing on all cylinders and playing a perfect game as is most often the case with these types of upsets. Both teams played poorly, and Ohio State’s “bad” is always going to better than Penn State’s and that’s why it appeared that the Buckeyes had the game in control.

Obviously, the Penn State special teams was the deciding factor, but the Happy Valley white-out atmosphere single-handedly ended Ohio State’s perfect 20-0 record in true road games under coach Urban Meyer. No matter what type of product that Penn State puts on the field, the white-out at Beaver Stadium under the lights is a top-three atmosphere in college football and it’s not even arguable. It’s probably the loudest stadium I’ve ever been to. It even trumps the Horseshoe during a Michigan game.

The Penn State crowd and hostile environment was the only factor that you would even consider that could potentially keep the Nittany Lions in the game. Regardless of how or why Ohio State found a way to lose this game, there is no way around it. This was a bad loss. It’s right up there with the Virginia Tech debacle from 2014. Even with Penn State having an outside shot to come out of the Big Ten East, the Buckeyes lost to a bad football team.

I’ve been high on the Buckeyes all year, but it’s clear that the offensive line and any receiver not named Noah Brown need a lot of work. It’s only one loss but Ohio State’s inconsistent offense over the last three games has become a disturbing trend and is nothing close to what we witnessed in September. Unless Ohio State and quarterback J.T. Barrett can find consistency in the passing game, there is not going to be a national championship opportunity for Ohio State in 2016. And worse, Ohio State’s streak over that team up north will surely be snapped. I love freshman running back Mike Weber, but it would also help if Samuel recorded at least a carry or two prior to the second half.

Now, before we all get down on the Buckeyes, let’s remember that Meyer has won three national championships and exactly zero of his titles have resulted from a perfect season. Aside from 2012, this is what Meyer does. His team’s lose one game a year, sometimes in inexplicable fashion and are playing right there with the nation’s elite by the end of November.

All of Ohio State’s goals are still in front of them. But right now, the Buckeyes just aren’t good enough to be thinking about the playoff.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25.

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Who’s Next? Meyer, Ohio State Will White-Out Penn State

Following an emotional 30-23 overtime victory at Wisconsin, the Ohio State Buckeyes were the team jumping around at Camp Randall Stadium. Ohio State is now 6-0 overall and 3-0 in the Big Ten. The focus now turns to Penn State as the Buckeyes prepare for another night game in Happy Valley on Saturday.

I’m not sure how much focus the Buckeyes will need to come away with a victory in this one. You never want to see your team play with a lack of focus, especially in an atmosphere like the one Penn State presents, on the road and at night. However, the Buckeyes’ level of focus will only determine their margin of victory and with quarterback J.T. Barrett, it won’t be an issue.

I know we all remember previous losses and close-calls in Happy Valley in front of the white-out, including the 2014 contest that took double-overtime for the Buckeyes to defeat the Nittany Lions. But let’s be honest, Penn State is flat-out bad, despite coming off a bye week at 4-2. I will say that that Penn State does possess arguably the best running back in the Big Ten in Saquon Barkley, but it will need a lot more than Barkley to even hang around with the Buckeyes.

Although Penn State did get the victory, Ohio State fans should not be worried about a team that was a slight underdog to Maryland at home. Before the season and because of possessing such a young team, I predicted that the upcoming Penn State game would be one of two losses for Ohio State during the regular season (Oklahoma being the other one). I obviously was way off when it came to the Sooners. It’s easy to get sucked in thinking Penn State will present a tough challenge because historically speaking, they are supposed to, especially at home in a night game. Those days are over, at least in 2016 when Ohio State is concerned.

When we look back at the many different times that Penn State hung with a highly ranked Ohio State team in State College, it’s usually been because of a stout Penn State defense. In 2016, the Nittany Lions are surrendering over 28 points per game and that includes playing against less-than offensive juggernauts Kent State, Temple and Minnesota. As recently as the 2014 matchup, it was a pick-six by the Penn State defense that swung the game in the Lions’ favor after trailing Ohio State 17-0. Ultimately, it was not enough and unless Linebacker U pulls a rabbit out of its hat and makes a sudden return on Saturday night, Ohio State will white-out Penn State real fast.

Now that we are officially into the second half of the season, regardless if Penn State pulls an absolute shocker or not, Ohio State and Michigan are on a collision course to not only both be undefeated when The Game comes around, but potentially be the top two ranked teams in the nation should Alabama have a slip-up. The second half of the season also means losses are tougher to absorb, although a stunning loss to Penn State wouldn’t be anything close to crippling for the Buckeyes, but would be a lot more significant than if Ohio State would have fell at Wisconsin.

Penn State does enter the Ohio State game with only one conference loss and plays Purdue, Iowa, Indiana, Rutgers and Michigan State to close the season. Those games are all certainly winnable, but I can guarantee that even if Penn State knocks off the Buckeyes in what might be a bigger upset than Appalachian State defeating Michigan in 2007, Penn State isn’t running the table.

As long as Ohio State doesn’t lose to Michigan at the end of the season, the Buckeyes will remain in playoff contention, even with a loss. Ohio State has already won their two games against Oklahoma and Wisconsin where a loss would have been anything but devastating. Oklahoma was in the early non-conference part of the schedule and Wisconsin is a Big Ten West foe with both teams being highly ranked when the Buckeyes played them.

Until somebody knocks off Ohio State and ends coach Urban Meyer’s perfect 20-0 record in true road games with the Buckeyes, Penn State will be just another “tough” test Ohio State will pass in preparation for their playoff-like showdown with that team up north.

E-mail Mark at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter @msilverman25

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Christian Hackenberg: Hype Combined with an RGIII Trait

The start of the college football season is accompanied by an onslaught of NFL projections, positional rankings, and mock drafts.  It is fun in the beginning, becomes mundane and repetitive at about week 6, and gets interesting again during the final playoff push, conference championships, and bowl games as top players distinguish themselves from others.

Christian Hackenberg made headlines before stepping onto Penn State’s campus because he decided not to flee in the wake of NCAA sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky scandal.  He was a 5-star recruit and, at the time, was the future of Penn State.  Fast forward a few years and Hackenberg’s career at Penn State has been relatively unremarkable outside of the hype and attention he gets by virtue of his powerful arm, supposed NFL potential, and 5-star recruit status.

In 2013 and 2014, his first two seasons at Penn State, Hackenberg threw for 2955 and 2977 yards, respectively.  He had a completion percentage of 58.9% and 55.8%, respectively.  While not horrible, in an era where college quarterbacks are putting up eye popping numbers, Hackenberg was putting up numbers that were quite pedestrian, especially for a player who some scouts were touting as a potential top NFL draft pick.

He has no weapons

Hackenberg supporters often use this defense when trying to rationalize his lack of production.  And they aren’t wrong.  He had Allen Robinson, a future 2nd round pick in the 2014 NFL draft and no other truly viable options.  After Robinson left for the NFL, he had DaeSean Hamilton (899 yards in 2014) and Geno Lewis (751 yards in 2014), players who had good receiving yardage, but accounted for a measly total of 4 touchdowns.

He hasn’t had a good offensive line

This phrase is another common Hackenberg defense.  And it seems fair.  Hackenberg was sacked a lot and has been given the pretty obvious nickname of “Christian Sackenberg” by some media members.  However, in a vacuum, sack numbers can be misleading.  The Washington Redskins’ quarterback odyssey involving Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy, and Robert Griffin III has shown the way that sack numbers are very dependent on the quarterback under center.  A quarterback who knows how to get rid of the ball quickly (Kirk Cousins) will take far fewer sacks than one who holds onto the ball too long (Robert Griffin III).  While Hackenberg has been the victim of his offensive line crumbling, he also falls into the Robert Griffin III category of holding onto the ball too long than

When compared to the holy grail of big-armed, pro style quarterbacks, Andrew Luck, Hackenberg falls astonishingly short.  In his 2010 campaign, the year before he went pro, Luck passed for 3338 yards, 32 touchdowns, and had a completion percentage of 70.7%.  That year, his top receiver was Doug Baldwin who had 857 yards and 9 touchdowns.  His next leading receiver was Ryan Whalen who accounted for 439 yards and 2 touchdowns.  Luck’s quarterback prowess allowed him to put up great numbers and be productive with a supporting cast that had similar to production to the players around Hackenberg.

It isn’t fair to declare someone a player a “bust” in college since players can make incredible strides in a year, but, at least for Hackenberg, it is fair to at least begin derailing, or for some people outright destroying, the notion that he is the next great NFL quarterback.  Top NFL quarterback prospects don’t have three week stretches where they throw only 1 touchdown, 4 interceptions, and can’t break the 200 yard mark against Indiana, Temple, and Illinois.  If you are not a believer in stats as they can be misleading, especially at the college level, his CBS scouting report states that he “has a bad habit of holding onto the ball too long and clamming up when the walls start to wear down….(he has) frenetic eyes which leads to flawed decision-making.”  Robert Griffin III has shown the world happens when a quarterback goes down the path of holding onto the ball too long and taking sacks; the fact that Hackenberg has the same trait without the same athleticism and escapability doesn’t bode well for Penn State or his NFL aspirations.

An Early Look at the Terps’ 2015 Schedule

It is never too early to begin looking at the season ahead, and the release of the Terrapins’ 2015 football schedule presented the perfect opportunity to do so. At first glance there are some intriguing matchups, including a rematch with newly-crowned national champion Ohio State in Columbus. Here are a few games to mark on your 2015 calendar:

September 26 @ West Virginia

The Border Battle continues in 2015, as the Terps will travel to Morgantown to take on the Mountaineers. Maryland has faced West Virginia a total of 13 times over the past 15 college football seasons, and the rivalry has not proved particularly kind to the Terrapins. Maryland has defeated WVU on just four occasions, and three of those wins came during the 2001, 2002, and 2003 seasons. The Mountaineers defeated the Terps in seven straight matchups from 2004 to 2012, until the Terps finally prevailed again in 2013 with a resounding 37-0 shutout at a rainy contest played in M&T Bank Stadium. Last season, quarterback Clint Trickett led the Mountaineers to a 40-37 win over Maryland, throwing for 511 yards and four touchdowns. The loss was a heartbreaking one for the Terps, as they rallied after falling behind 28-6 to cut the West Virginia lead to 28-27. Maryland tied the game at 37 before Trickett led the Mountaineers down the field ending in a controversial game-winning field goal. Trickett will not be under center for WVU next season, as he graduated and in fact opted to retire from football altogether due to enduring multiple concussions over a relatively short time period in his short playing career. The future look of the Terps’ offense is still very much a mystery at this point as well, as starting quarterback C.J. Brown has used up his collegiate eligibility after six years and star wideout Stefon Diggs declared early for the 2015 NFL Draft. While the exact makeup of either team is still greatly unknown, the Terps seem to have righted the ship over the last two years as far as this rivalry goes and this should be another great game.

October 3 vs. Michigan

Michigan has uncharacteristically underperformed over the last few seasons, and the Terps added to their 2014 woes by defeating the Wolverines in Ann Arbor 23-16. Michigan finished last season with a 5-7 record, fired head coach Brady Hoke, and hired former Stanford and San Francisco 49er head coach Jim Harbaugh to take his place. Harbaugh was a quarterback for the Wolverines from 1983-86, and even has a few ties to the state of Maryland as he quarterbacked the Baltimore Ravens in 1998 and brother John is the current coach of the team. While it will likely take a few years for Harbaugh to get Michigan back on the winning track (if it all), this historic college football program making the trip to College Park is a must see. If anything, watching Jim Harbaugh jumping up and down along the sidelines should provide a sufficient amount of entertainment.

October 24 vs. Penn State

Maryland’s victory over Penn State in 2014 was arguably the biggest win of the season, as the Terps traveled to Happy Valley and Brad Craddock kicked the Terps to a 20-19 victory over the Nittany Lions. If not the best win, it was certainly the most memorable game of last season. Aside from the last-minute game-winning kick, the game itself was preceded by the infamous handshake snub at midfield by the Terrapins’ game captains. Regardless of what side of the fence you are on regarding the pregame incident, along with the way the game itself played out, it helped give birth to a new college football and Big Ten rivalry. Hopefully, the rivalry will only continue to grow (for the right reasons) between these two universities, and the 2015 matchup between Maryland and Penn State could be indicative of where the rivalry is headed. The game will be played at M&T Bank Stadium, so the stadium should be rockin’ with Terps fans and Penn State fans alike. If you’re going to attend just one Terps football game in 2015, I strongly suggest it’s this one.

November 28 @ Rutgers

The most heartbreaking loss of the 2014 season came at the hands of Rutgers and offensive coordinator/former Terp head coach Ralph Friedgen in the regular season finale. After building a 25-point lead just before halftime, the Rutgers offense scored touchdowns on four consecutive possessions. While the offense gained ground on the scoreboard, the Rutgers defense completed the unforgettable comeback by holding Maryland to just one field goal in the entire second half and stuffing running back Brandon Ross on a 4th and 1 with just under three minutes remaining in the game. The loss dropped the Terps to 7-5 and prevented them from receiving an invitation to a more prestigious bowl. The exact circumstances surrounding Friedgen’s departure is more than cloudy, but it is safe to say his firing was less than amicable. Understandably so, after Friedgen won 75 games at Maryland over ten years and was assured by AD Kevin Anderson that his job was secure. The 2015 rematch after Ralph’s revenge to end the regular season could present similar postseason implications and ramifications to the 2014 collapse.

When a Crime No Longer Holds Its Punishment

When in doubt, point the finger, file or threaten to file a lawsuit or leak embarrassing information to the press, and raise hell. This approach works well when Olivia Pope does it in Scandal and seems to have carried over into real life.

Within the college football world, the 2011 Penn State scandal involving former coach Jerry Sandusky and his sexual assault of multiple children is well known. The NCAA levied penalties which included a $60 million dollar fine, a 4-year postseason ban, and a reduction in scholarships, some of the harshest penalties handed out to a school without giving the school the “death penalty” or a ban of a school from competing in a sport for at least a year. And last, and certainly not least, the “devastating” punishment of vacating 112 wins from 1998 to 2011. In September 2014, the NCAA restored Penn State’s postseason eligibility and also restored all scholarships for the upcoming recruiting year.

Lost in the punishments and revoking of punishments is the fact that the victims have no justice. The penalties started out as some of the harshest in history, and now have been almost completely rescinded. Maybe it is “easier” to take away the penalties since the victims made the decision not to come out and reveal their names and faces, depriving the scandal of a person and a face that people could point at and say “this person was impacted by what happened at Penn State.” Although it seems to have faded with the passage of time, for a few weeks, Janay Rice and Ray Rice were the faces of domestic violence and provided the fuel that the NFL and other organizations needed to launch ad campaigns and programs regarding the issue. In sharp contrast, the only word that can be used to describe those who were most directly impacted by Jerry Sandusky’s actions were “victim,” a term that is used to describe people who are impacted by a myriad of actions from floods and hurricanes to drunk driving incidents. It seems the NCAA has created an environment where it is the burden of the victim to disclose “how badly” they were affected by a crime. The crime itself no longer holds the weight for punishment.

Now, one of the last pieces of the penalties given to Penn State is under fire, as Pennsylvania State Senator Jake Corman has filed a lawsuit against the NCAA challenging the $60 million dollar fine. In a hypothetical world, there could be damning emails turned over by the NCAA that support Corman’s case that the NCAA overstepped their bounds in levying the multimillion dollar fine. If this happens, Corman could win his lawsuit. If Corman achieves his goal, the real question that remains is, what penalties did Penn State actually suffer as a result of a scandal involving the molestation of multiple children over many years? A temporary scholarship reduction, possibly. A temporary postseason ban, perhaps. More NCAA supervision to ensure that everything is above board; that should be the case anyway. A vacating of wins, don’t be ridiculous.

What started out as a school getting punished for one of the greatest scandals in college football history has turned out to be a temporary “timeout,” like a teenager getting a cell phone taken away from a week and then given back later as a parent says not to do it again. Ironically, the good that might come out of this entire ordeal could have nothing to do with Penn State and everything to do with the NCAA. In botching the way that the Penn State penalties were enforced, the NCAA may have tipped the first domino in what will ultimately become its undoing. As the debate about college athlete compensation, possibly unionization, and ever growing TV revenues rages, the NCAA can ill afford its most significant decision in recent memory to result in a glorious backfire.

In the end, as much as the actions of Penn State and those associated with the school indicate, the real victim here is not Penn State, it is the nameless, faceless individuals who had their lives forever altered. It is a true shame that the lawsuits and media attention have forgotten those who truly suffered. While the perpetrator, Jerry Sandusky, will deservedly spend the rest of his life in prison, the school that provided him with the personal notoriety and platform along with the facilities and the cover up for his actions will leave approximately 2 years later having suffered very little. Perhaps the ultimate lesson that can be learned from this scandal is that when accused, raising hell, pointing the finger at enough people, threatening, and having a blatant disregard for the true victims seems to work spectacularly.

The Birth of a Rivalry

Wide receiver Stefon Diggs, tight end P.J. Gallo and safety Sean Davis walked to midfield prior to the kickoff of Maryland’s first matchup with Penn State since the early ‘90s. The three Terrapins had been selected as captains, and were met at the center of Beaver Stadium by the three chosen captains for the Nittany Lions. Diggs, Gallo and Davis stood stoically as the three Penn State players extended their hands for the customary pregame handshakes. Maryland’s players did not return the traditional show of sportsmanship, an action which compelled the Big Ten to suspend Diggs for one game and fine the university $10,000. Instead of shaking hands, the Maryland captains glared intensely at the opponent before them, keeping their hands at their sides.

I had made the short trip from Maryland to Happy Valley to see the newcomers to the conference, my Terrapins, take on one of the storied programs of the Big Ten. Word quickly spread through the stadium of the reason behind the assessment of a 15-yard penalty on Maryland before the first snap of the football had even taken place. Penn State fans in my vicinity jokingly and rhetorically asked me what the deal was with my school. I shrugged and laughed it off, although I couldn’t help but feel embarrassed that the three Terrapin captains acted in such a childish manner which reflected so poorly upon my alma mater. Despite the unsportsmanlike nature of their behavior, one thing became immediately unmistakable: the Terps wanted a rival, and the seed to create one had just been planted.

Maryland's game captains refused to shake hands prior to kickoff. Photo credit: athlonsports.com.
Maryland’s game captains refused to shake hands prior to kickoff. Photo credit: athlonsports.com.

When James Franklin was hired as the head coach at Penn State in January 2014, he immediately made headlines by making comments regarding his recruiting intentions and strategy. Franklin, the offensive coordinator at Maryland from 2008-10, said he considered several Northeastern states, including Maryland, to be “in-state” recruiting territories. These comments irked Terrapin fans throughout the state, and prompted Maryland head coach Randy Edsall to reply, “We’re going to find guys that fit the profile we’re looking for. We’re going to worry about ourselves and not worry about anything else. Talk is cheap.” It could be argued that Franklin’s comments, or even the brief skirmish between the two teams after both initially took the field on Saturday, marked the initial event leading to a recognizable rivalry between two schools that share a state border. I am of the opinion, however, that these were comparably minor occurrences which led up to the more noteworthy scene of the Terrapin captains refusing to shake the outstretched hands of Penn State’s captains. It was possibly the most awkward moment in all of college football in recent history, and a moment that set the wheels in motion for a rapidly developing rivalry.

With the seed now planted, as undeniably unsportsmanlike as it was, Maryland still needed to compete in the football game to back up their antics. The game itself was incredibly sloppy. The two teams combined for 14 penalties totaling 151 penalty yards. Neither team could find any success moving the football either on the ground or through the air, as the two offenses appeared almost as mirror images of each other’s ineffectiveness. Penn State finished with 42 total rushing yards; Maryland a mere 33. PSU quarterback Christian Hackenberg completed just 18 of 42 passes for 177 yards, while Maryland’s C.J. Brown completed 18 of 38 for 161 yards. Maryland’s leading receiver and handshake-snub culprit Stefon Diggs tallied just 53 yards on six receptions, while Geno Lewis led all Penn State receivers with just 54 yards on five catches. The game was painful to watch at times, observing possession after possession end with either a turnover (Penn State: 4 TOs, Maryland: 2) or a punt (19 combined between both teams).

As unsexy as it may have been, the sloppy, groan-inducing character of Saturday’s contest meant everything to the birth of this rivalry. It goes without saying that had the Terps been manhandled in Happy Valley, their pre-game antics would have meant nothing more to the Penn State football team and its fans than a lesser team trying to make a name for itself in a new conference. It also wouldn’t have necessarily been beneficial for purposes of building a rivalry had Maryland somehow defeated Penn State by a wide margin. Something could have been said for the Terps crushing PSU in their own house, but the perception among both Penn State and (reasonable) Terps fans alike would have been that this occurrence was more of an isolated exception to a rule. Even if the Penn State offense had been clicking, and Maryland squeaked out a victory due to, let’s say, a couple scores from defensive turnovers or special teams, the Penn State faithful would have likely seen the win as a freak occurrence that wouldn’t have happened but for Penn State’s own preventable mistakes.

But on Saturday neither team could get anything going offensively, as both offenses finished near a paltry 200 total yards each. Both Maryland and Penn State played solid defensively. Both made costly turnovers late in the game. Both teams were hurt on numerous occasions by penalties, including a defensive touchdown called back after a highly questionable roughing the passer call on the Terps. Both teams possessed the football for nearly the same amount of time. The third quarter ended with Maryland trailing 16-7, but the Terps outscored Penn State 13-3 in the fourth quarter. The victory was all but clinched by Brad Craddock’s 43-yard field goal with under a minute left in the game.

Maryland’s late rally, capped off by a long field goal to win by the slimmest of margins, truly captured the essence of a rivalry.

Maryland celebrates after kicker Brad Craddock hits the game-winning field goal for the Terps. Photo credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports
Maryland celebrates after kicker Brad Craddock hits the game-winning field goal for the Terps. Photo credit: Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

After the game Edsall apologized for the pregame lack of sportsmanship and explained that he had no knowledge of the intentions of his captains beforehand. He was then asked about the win and what it meant for a Maryland-Penn State football rivalry. Edsall commented, “Let the rivalry begin now… There should be a trophy for this game. It’s a bordering state. Let’s have some fun.”

In 2014, Maryland found themselves facing many uncertainties as members of a new conference after spending over 60 years in the ACC. The University of Virginia was considered a rival football program before this season, although many Terps fans didn’t recognize the rivalry label that the university seemingly had to promote to create buzz and sell more tickets. Most Maryland fans viewed Duke and North Carolina as rivals in basketball, but the perspective was not entirely reciprocated. While there were many instances over the years when the Terps played well against those teams and came away victorious, Duke and UNC see each other as rivals. The two programs never quite attributed the “rival” tag to the Terrapins, a realization I could not come to accept until well after I graduated from Maryland.

So far the majority of the “rivalry” talk has come from Maryland’s side, and had the game itself played out any differently it would have been just that: nothing more than talk. Talk from a team that immaturely refuses to shake hands before a football game. Talk from a team that is just looking to generate some recognition as newcomers to an historic college football conference. Talk from a team that is attempting to not lose recruits to a more powerful, staple Big Ten football program.

As painful as it was for Maryland fans to watch the first 59 minutes of Saturday’s game, the sloppy makeup of the Terps’ first meeting in over two decades with Penn State presented the perfect recipe to give birth to a new, true rivalry.

Stefon Diggs Suspended, School Fined

The Big Ten has suspended Maryland wide receiver Stefon Diggs for one game and fined the university $10,000 for the team’s actions before Saturday’s game against Penn State.

The scene has exploded across the nation: Maryland’s three game captains standing practically motionless as Penn State’s captains extend their hands for the traditional pregame handshake before kickoff. College football fans took to social media to voice their displeasure over the lack of sportsmanship exhibited by Diggs and the other two Maryland game captains, tight end P.J. Gallo and safety Sean Davis. Gallo and Davis have not been suspended.

Diggs also struck a referee in the face during a brief pregame skirmish between several players from both teams. The incident was apparently inadvertent as the receiver was not ejected from the game.

Head Coach Randy Edsall and University of Maryland Athletic Director Kevin Anderson have both since apologized to the Penn State football program, and explained that the pregame lack of sportsmanship was an isolated occurrence that does not accurately portray the university and its football team. Edsall said that he accepts full responsibility for his captains’ actions.

Maryland defeated Penn State in a sloppy, turnover- and penalty-filled contest. The Terps’ Brad Craddock kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal with under a minute left in the game to give Maryland the 20-19 win.

Diggs has 52 receptions for 654 yards on the season, including five touchdowns.

The one-game suspension means that the already-anemic Maryland offense will be without its star player for the November 15 home matchup with #7 Michigan State.

Style Points Absent in Buckeye Scare

Playoffs? Don’t talk about playoffs. You kidding me? Playoffs? I just hope Ohio State can hang with Michigan State. Just in case any of you were living under a rock Saturday night, the Buckeyes didn’t exactly make it a fifth consecutive game with 50+ points. After all, it took double-overtime to put up 31 points against a “rugged” Penn State defense.

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Last week, I predicted that the Buckeyes would not simply walk into Happy Valley at night and put the finishing touches on the Nittany Lions by halftime. That just wasn’t going to happen. Aside from the significant talent gap between the two schools, somehow you knew that the combination of a white-out, a night game in Beaver Stadium and that annoying lion roar would keep this game interesting. However, I never would have believed the vaunted Ohio State offense would be shutout in the second half. That’s right, that means the Buckeyes scored zero points from the beginning of the third quarter until the end of regulation.

bleacherreport
bleacherreport

Following what is arguable quarterback J.T. Barrett’s first relevant mistake of the season, an interception returned for a touchdown to make it 17-7 early in the second half, the offense went into a ” let’s not give the game away” mentality and it showed. At the end of the day, Barrett and the Buckeyes made the necessary plays when it counted and survived to play another week in the chaotic playoff chase. But make no mistake about it, this kind of performance isn’t going to fly when the Buckeyes travel to East Lansing in a couple weeks.
As far as the playoff push is concerned, of course the Buckeyes remain alive with just one loss on the season. But think about this for a second. Virginia Tech and Penn State have been Ohio State’s two “toughest” opponents thus far in 2014. The Hokies and Nittany Lions aren’t exactly world beaters or anything that resembles the class of college football, yet have combined to outscore the Buckeyes 59-52. Does that sound playoff worthy to you?
reevesosubighitOn a positive note, the defense deserves plenty of credit for preserving the victory. I’m especially talking to you, Joey Bosa. Since Urban Meyer became head coach in 2012, it’s not very often the defense plays at or above the level of the offense, but on Saturday night, that was the case. It always helps when the opposing offensive line would struggle to protect quarterback Christian Hackenberg against a high school defensive front. Regardless, the defense limiting the Penn State offense to 10 points in regulation was impressive. Ohio State also allowed just 19 yards rushing. Bosa’s manhandling of Nittany Lions running back Akeel Lynch to sack Hackenberg on the final play was an appropriate ending for the Buckeyes. Bosa finished with six tackles and two and a half sacks.
At some point, whether it comes at Michigan State or in the postseason via the Big Ten Championship or the bowl game, offensive coordinator Tom Herman and the Buckeye offense are to have to keep the foot on the gas pedal with a lead when they’re not facing some of the worst defensive units in the country. Unfortunately, this isn’t the SEC. A win isn’t a win, anymore. The playoff committee isn’t going to actually research a close victory on the road and give Penn State the credit for almost pulling the upset. Instead it will be viewed as, ‘Wow, it took double-overtime to beat an average to below-average B10 team?’ The committee probably won’t realize that Penn State’s run defense is pretty legitimate. They won’t read into it that far and that’s just reality.
As much as it hurts the Buckeyes for not winning in impressive fashion, the Ohio State ground game was effective and will be much needed at Michigan State. Penn State entered Saturday’s contest allowing just over 60 rushing yards per game, a national-best. The Buckeyes finished with 183 yards on the ground and proved there isn’t a defense in the country that can completely shutdown this offense if they play their game.
Prior to the Penn State victory, Ohio State outscored their four previous opponents 224-69. A 31-24 double-overtime victory should have the boys humbled, as well as hungry going forward. Meyer has been down the “championship” road before and knows what it takes. If a nail biting victory in Happy Valley and even a lackluster performance at home next week against Illinois mean Michigan State hasn’t seen anything yet, I’m all for it. It all comes down to Nov. 8 in a one-game season against Sparty for B10 supremacy.

Ohio State on Upset Alert?

Following Ohio State’s 56-17 drubbing of Rutgers on Saturday, it is evident that the current Buckeye offense is a machine against inferior opponents in front of 107,000 screaming Ohio State fans or 30,000 scarlet and gray supporters on the “road.” Ohio State now enters a critical three-game stretch and two of the three games are in true road environments. With the Illinois sandwiched between night games at Penn State and Michigan State, we will be sure to find out if this group of Buckeyes are for real and if the Virginia Tech debacle was merely just a fluke.

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Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett will play his first true road game of the season in Happy Valley Saturday night. I’m sorry but Navy and Maryland fail to qualify as legitimate road contests as both games turned into semi-home affairs with Buckeye Nation out in full force. With that said, we can all admit that Penn State is an average to a below-average B10 team, which pretty much means they suck. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is about all the Nittany Lions have to offer and it didn’t seem to matter following a 63-14 defeat in Columbus a year ago, their worst loss in 114 years.
whiteoutHowever, there is something that Penn State fans refer to as the “White-Out.” Just ask former Ohio State quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith about the white-out. Am I incinuating the Buckeyes could be in trouble in such a potentially hostile environment? No way. Penn State just lost to Michigan for crying out loud. That’s bad. All I am saying is that road games in places like Happy Valley and obviously East Lansing are not going to be over midway through the second quarter. Penn State’s talent level is right on par with the likes of Ohio State’s previous four opponents (Kent State, Cincinnati, Maryland and Rutgers) which all resulted in blowouts. Just don’t expect the game to be a foregone conclusion by halftime.
Prior to the start of the season, I actually predicted a Penn State victory over the Buckeyes. However, I assumed that Ohio State would be undefeated at this point and never would have believed that Barrett would look as polished a quarterback at only the midway point of the season. I also expected the Nittany Lions to be a bit more impressive by this stage of the season under first-year coach James Franklin.
There is always that one game on the road that never goes according to plan. Without a doubt, the Buckeyes leave Happy Valley with a win, but will our blood pressure be an issue into the fourth quarter? We shall see.
As Ohio State prepares for their first true road environment to kickoff the second half of the season, let’s take a look at the offensive midseason report card for the Buckeyes.

buckeyextra.dispatch.com
buckeyextra.dispatch.com

Who could have ever thought the Buckeyes would have a future quarterback controversy when two-time B10 Offensive Player of the Year makes his return in 2015? Barrett has not only been solid for the Buckeyes at the midway point, he’s been stellar. Barrett is 107/164 for 1,615 yards and 20 touchdowns compared to just five interceptions. He’s also ran for 383 yards to go along with four rushing touchdowns. Barrett lacks the explosiveness Miller possesses when the football is in his hands, but Barrett has routinely picked up first downs with his legs when necessary. Barrett wasn’t great against Virginia Tech, yet was able to make plays here and there to keep the Buckeyes in the game. When the coaching staff isn’t prepared for the gameplan that Virginia Tech implements, I can’t expect a quarterback in his second career game to be either.
The trio of Ezekiel Elliott, Curtis Samuel and Rod Smith have done a nice job filling the void left by departed running back Carlos Hyde. Elliott has established himself as the feature back in an offense that appears to be unstoppable at this point of the season. In a pass-happy offense, Elliott has managed to log 531 yards with four touchdowns, averaging 5.8 yards per carry. Both Samuel and Smith have put the ball on the ground a couple times which has further supplanted Elliott as the lead back. It took a couple games for the running game to really get going, especially with a struggling offensive line early in the season. Other than that, Elliott and co. have been getting the job done.
For the most part, the receivers and tight ends have done a decent job, especially with the amount of work in Urban Meyer’s spread offense. Aside from a few too many dropped passes, including one by Corey Smith in the endzone that may have changed the game against Virginia Tech, the receivers have helped the offense move the ball at an alarming rate. Michael Thomas leads the group with 21 receptions for 377 yards and five touchdowns. Overall, 12 different players have made at least one catch. We will see if they can do it against more physical defenses in the second half of the season.
Considering Ohio State has scored more than 50 points in each of their previous four games and set a school-record with 45 first downs in a 50-28 victory over Cincinnati, the Buckeye offense passes the test.
Grade: A