Since Penn State entered the Big Ten in the 1993 football season, Ohio State and the Nittany Lions have played 25 times going into Saturday night’s game in State College, Pa.
Ohio State has a 17-8 advantage in those games. The Buckeyes are 11-2 in Ohio Stadium and have a 6-6 record in the games played at Penn State.
I’ve covered all 25 of those games. Here are my choices for the most memorable of those 25. And remember, I said most memorable. Sometimes Ohio State losses can be memorable.
1. Ohio State 13, Penn State 7 in 2002
Ohio State had so many close calls on its way to the 2002 national championship it’s hard to say one was the best. But this game at Ohio Stadium was definitely a contender for that honor.
Many people call it the Chris Gamble game. Gamble started on offense and defense and came up with two huge plays, one of which Ohio State fans will never forget and one many of them have forgotten.
Gamble intercepted a pass and returned it 40 yards for OSU’s only touchdown of the game. The less remembered play came when Penn State’s Anwar Phillips picked up a fumble by Craig Krenzel near the Nittany Lions’ goal line and Gamble caught him from behind nearly 60 yards later to prevent a touchdown.
2. Ohio State 28, Penn State 25 in 1995
A scheduling quirk sent Ohio State back to Penn State again a year after being embarrassed 63-14 there in 1994.
Penn State led late but a 32-yard pass from Bob Hoying to tight end Rickey Dudley set up the winning touchdown by Eddie George.
Hoying completed 24 of 35 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns in one of his best games. Terry Glenn caught nine of those passes for 175 yards and two touchdowns.
3. Ohio State 39, Penn State 38 in 2017
Penn State went up 21-3 early after Saquon Barkley ran the opening kickoff back for a touchdown and led 35-20 with 12 minutes to play.
But in the last 12 minutes J.T. Barrett hit 13 straight passes for three touchdowns, including the game-winner to tight end Marcus Baugh with 1:48 left on the clock.
4. Ohio State 31, Penn State 24, 2 OT in 2014
Ohio State let a 17-0 halftime lead slip away but won when quarterback J.T. Barrett, playing on a sprained knee, ran for touchdowns in both overtimes.
Joey Bosa ended it in spectacular fashion when he pushed running back Akeel Lynch into quarterback Christian Hackenberg for a sack on Penn State’s final play.
5. Penn State 63, Ohio State 14 in 1994
The 1994 Penn State offense, with Jeff Hartings as an offensive line starter, was one of the best in school history and it might not have ever been better than the day it played OSU.
Penn State was up 35-0 at halftime and led 63-7 before the Buckeyes scored with three minutes to play. Ki-Jana Carter scored four touchdowns and Kerry Collins threw for two more for Penn State in one of the most one-sided performances ever in an OSU game.
Saturday night’s’s game appears to have the potential to become a classic, too.
Both teams are ranked in the Top 10, with Ohio State coming in at No. 4 in The Associated Press poll and Penn State at No. 9.
Both teams have Big Ten championship and College Football Playoff aspirations. And even if it doesn’t reach classic status, it could be really entertaining. Penn State leads college football in scoring at 55.5 points a game and Ohio State is second at 54.5 points a game.
So, what are the big questions that could decide Saturday night’s game?
Urban Meyer emphasized offensive line play on Wednesday when he talked about the game and that could be more than just coach speak.
One of the last things Ohio State wants to see is quarterback Dwayne Haskins under pressure and scrambling instead of having time to set up in the pocket. It also doesn’t want to see the running game struggle because if those things both happen, you’re giving a Penn State offense that averages 55 points a game too many chances to score.
Offensive line play is also big for Penn State. Along with an incredible performance by Barrett, the biggest factor in OSU’s fourth-quarter comeback last year was the Buckeyes’ defensive line’s total domination of Penn State’s offensive line in the final 15 minutes.
How Ohio State’s defensive line plays against the toughest opponent it has seen so far without Nick Bosa could be just as important.
Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley is a threat running the ball as well as throwing it. Getting pressure on him is at the top of the list of things OSU must do, especially with the problems its linebackers and defensive backs have had with allowing big plays.
Haskins has been spectacular in his first four games, hitting 75 percent of his passes and throwing 16 touchdown passes with only one interception.
Some people worry about how he will react Saturday night in the big game atmosphere in front of more than 100,000 Penn State fans in Beaver Stadium.
The bigger question probably should be how will Ohio State as a team react. Beaver Stadium is a real home field advantage.
Compare Ohio State’s record there against the Nittany Lions and its record at Ohio Stadium against them if you doubt that.
Or ask the 1997 OSU team, which led by 10 points late in the third quarter, but lost 31-27 at Penn State. Or ask Jim Tressel’s first Ohio State team, which led 27-9 but lost 29-27 in 2001. Or ask the 2016 OSU team.
The expectation is that Saturday night’s game will be close. That expectation is probably correct.
The prediction: Ohio State 35, Penn State 28.
Reach Jim Naveau at 567-242-0414.