Ohio State's Biennial Trip to Penn State and Beaver Stadium Might Be a Lot Less Hostile This Fall

By David Regimbal on June 8, 2020 at 2:50 pm
Penn State's Famed White Out
© James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State's "White Out" game is arguably the most hostile environment in college football.

Now, any trip to Happy Valley is a tough one for a given opponent. But every season, Penn State picks one visitor to put under the lights for over three hours of deafening chaos.

That distinction typically falls to Ohio State every other year. When the Buckeyes invade State College, it's an almost guaranteed White Out, as they've played in those conditions every matchup since 2012.

The Buckeyes have endured the White Out five times and came away with a trio of classic wins and a pair of brutal losses. The first win came in 2012, which gives us all a tremendous excuse to revisit the time Braxton Miller danced through Penn State's defense and then juked a man while diving into the end zone.

The next win came in 2014 via a 31-24 double overtime thriller that ended with a walk-off Joey Bosa sack. And lastly, Dwayne Haskins late heroics helped Ohio State erase a 12-point deficit with eight minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to go on and win 27-26.

The two losses were brutal. The first came in 2005 when Troy Smith, Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn got nothing going in a 17-10 loss. The second came in 2016 when a late blocked field goal returned for a touchdown propelled Penn State to a 24-21 victory.

"Penn State... that was by far the loudest stadium I've ever been in," former Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said when talking about that 2005 matchup.

That's what was in store for Ryan Day, Justin Fields and the Buckeyes when they traveled to Penn State on October 24, but that house of horrors might not pack as many screams this fall.

The coronavirus pandemic has altered so many aspects of life, and as things slowly return to some semblance of normalcy, sporting events are projected to look drastically different. Ohio State, for instance, is exploring what it would look like to implement social-distancing measures and admit somewhere between 20,000 to 50,000 fans in the stadium.

Those standards, at a maximum, are expected to occur in every live sporting event around the country, so long as the rolling back of stay-at-home orders continue to go smoothly.

That in it of itself would drastically cut the potency of Penn State's home field advantage. A crowd of 50,000 won't be able to replicate the ear-splitting roar of 110,000 people. But there's something else that could put a damper on the electric environment.

The Big Ten's partnership with Fox brought millions of dollars into the conference. Fox earned the rights to the Big Ten's best matchups. The network's market research showed that CBS had a lock on the 3:30 time slot, as they showcase a premier SEC matchup in the late afternoon. ESPN and ABC had a stranglehold on the primetime lineup. But there was a big opportunity to steal the spotlight at noon.

That's what led to Fox's Big Noon Kickoff. The pregame show featuring former Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer and former USC stars Matt Leinart and Reggie Bush was an absolute hit, offering an alternate lead up program to ESPN's College Gameday. 

Fox then put its best game in the noon slot, immediately after their pregame show. That's why Ohio State played its top two home games last season against No. 13 Wisconsin and No. 8 Penn State under dreary clouds rather than the bright lights.

The same thing could happen for this year's Penn State - Ohio State game. If that happens, combined with the limited Beaver Stadium occupancy, this year's White Out would be the least daunting in its very loud and proud history.

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