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Thursday, October 12, 2006

The Devil Speaks: Pennsylvania State – Khakis, White Socks, Black Shoes

In this two part post, Baggy Pants Devil takes a look at the M-Penn State rivalry today and looks at Saturday's match-up tomorrow.

I dig Penn State. It's almost impossible to not like them. And the reasons are numerous: Their uniforms are older than old school (they're what the Amish would wear if they were okay with football). We're talking Great Depression for God's sake. Furthermore, their coach is an icon who seemingly has been coaching since the above-mentioned Great Depression. I'm sure they'll make a movie about him someday (although probably just those cheesey ESPN biopic ones in which, say, Joe Pesci would play JoePa -- "I'm funny how, ref? I make you laugh? I'm here to fucking amuse you?"). I also admire that, while Penn State has been a college football powerhouse for my entire lifetime, they've never devolved into Florida State/Miami thuggery. In addition, Paterno has always emphasized his athletes' education.

Plus, Penn State is a bit of a hard luck case considering Joe Paterno has led the Nittany Lions to five—yes, five!—undefeated seasons and only one of them yielded a mythical national championship. I personally feel both Penn State and Michigan have been jobbed by Nebraska—Penn State in 1994, Michigan in 1997—so, we're kind of kindred spirits here.

But the irony about all this admiration and respect for Penn State (which is shared by many Michigan fans) is that Penn State fans seem to despise Michigan with a passion normally associated with Columbus, Ohio.

Why the hate?

Maybe it's because Michigan has beaten Penn State the last seven straight games. The Nittany Lions last beat the Wolverines in 1996, over a decade ago. "Independence Day" was the top grossing movie that year and "Macerena"—yes, the Macerana!—was the year's biggest musical hit. Maybe that decade long losing streak has something to do with their hatred of Michigan (and my fondness for Penn State).

Yet in spite of Michigan's recent dominance of Penn State and the fact that this year's Michigan team is much better than last year's (while this year's Penn State team is worse than last year's), this is still a dangerous game. Yes, I'm going to keep saying that before each week (OK, maybe not before Ball State) lest I tempt the wrath of the college football gods. But this week, there's a reason I'm nervous: revenge.

Everyone knows how last year's crappy, 7-5 Michigan team ruined Penn State's shot at an undefeated season. Personally, I think Michigan did Penn State a favor. Do Penn State fans really want Penn State and Joe Paterno to have had yet another undefeated season without a mythical national championship? An undefeated Penn State would have had the same ranking and gone to the same bowl game. Truth is, as warped as it sounds, we did PSU fans a favor.

Now, Saturday's game should be easy to forecast. Notre Dame thrashed Penn State 41 -17 and Michigan pummeled Notre Dame 47 -21. That should mean Michigan ultra-thrashes Penn State to the tune of 126 to 9. Sadly, college football doesn't always work out like that. So tomorrow I'm going to break down the teams in depth and look at some statistics .


Galen said...

I can take a stab at the Penn State hatred of Michigan:

A- No rival on schedule

B- 7 wins in a row = big brother – little brother syndrome, PSU fans can’t wait to get big brother when he’s down

C- Some PSU fans feel they have been jobbed by refs in Michigan series (hey we have to come up with SOME excuse)

D- Penn State is traditionally underrated by pollsters and Michigan is traditionally given the benefit of the doubt – look no further then last year. Michigan is having a very similar season this year to PSU’s season last year yet, like you said, Penn State would have got hosed last year. You can bet the farm if Michigan goes undefeated they will surely be in the national title game.

This is just my guess and not my thoughts. Personally I like Michigan and save my hatred for other teams like say… oh Notre Dame, Florida State, etc. I think the 7 wins in a row really gets some people because Joe really doesn’t have too many teams that have got the better of him over the years.

Greg said...

When Joe sort of shafted Pittsburgh and joined the Big Ten instead of the Big East (he refused to play home-and-home series with Pitt, for reasons that I could find if I wanted to, and maybe Pitt refused to play that with him, but who knows), PSU lost its natural rival, and we've been looking for one ever since. Michigan State just doesn't do it, so Ohio State and Michigan are the naturals. I haven't been back on campus in well over a decade, so I'm not sure how much hatred is there now, but this alum doesn't hate Michigan. It probably has something to do with the long losing streak, but it might be because we have no more rival and we're just looking for one. It's frustrating.

That said, if the Lions can get a little more offense than they did against the Buckeyes (meaning, you know, ANY), this could be a big upset. I doubt it, but it would be nice to see!

Anonymous said...

Basic role reverasl. Average Michigan team beats great Penn State team, ruins PSU's perfect season. Average Penn State team seeking revenge ruins Michigan's perfect season?

Penn State would have absolutely no chance to beat Michigan if this game was in Ann Arbor. ZERO. And it would probably be an ugly asskicking along the lines of the ND game.

But it's not. It's in Happy Valley at night in front of 110,000+ fans that make up the loudest crowd in the country. And Manningham is out. Considering he was Penn State's kryptonite last season, I'd say that's pretty big.

mhentz said...

Sorry in advance about the length, but you guys struck a nerve.

Galen's allusion to the ‘big brother - little brother syndrome’ does a lot to explain a PSU fan's loathing of the Wolverines. Perhaps what UM fans fail to understand is that PSU fans, from the school’s entrance to the B10 right up to this very day, have always seen the Nittany Lion football program as being on an equal footing among the nation’s elite programs with those of UM and tOSU. You guys may admire our old school unis and our iconoclastic coach and our integrity-first approach and all the rest, but we still feel looked down upon by the UM fans, by the UM program, and by the Big Ten front office as so much a lesser Baldwin brother to UM’s Alec.

Perhaps that’s a misapprehension on the part of us PSU fans but we feel as we do. Perhaps the Nits’ play on the field in recent years would suggest we have no right to feel as we do, but we believe those years to be the exception, not the norm. We believe the years 1993 through 1996 are what PSU football is really all about and we’re still finding our way back there. Regardless, it sticks in a PSU fan’s craw to be held in the same esteem as the Gophers, the Badgers, and Sparty (with apologies to those fine programs) by the likes of the Wolverines and the Buckeyes. Perhaps it’s merely a result of the seven win/loss streak or maybe there’s more to it, then again maybe not. Who knows? There may or may not be a pro-UM Big Ten officiating bias as well, either conscious or unconscious, but I can guarantee you that barring several Big Ten officiating crews’ undeniable incompetence, there would be no seven game win/loss streak and PSU’s B10 records with both Michigan and OSU would be closer to .500 (as it should be with programs on an equal footing) and then perhaps Penn State’s football program would be held in the esteem that Penn State fans feel it’s earned over the years. Until we find a way to get those series’ back to .500, Alec will always get the best roles and the juiciest babes, AND THAT DRIVES US NUTS.

Anonymous said...

As a PSU Alum, I have noticed the hatred that has been shown towards Michigan. I don't understand it & as a college football fan- I don't like it!

I am going to the game this weekend & look forward to a war on the field. And should any Michigan fans approach our tailgate this weekend, I will wish them luck, talk football if they like & offer them a beer (similar to the greetings I rec'd when I went to Columbus last month). If some people wish to represent my Alma Mater in a negative light by acting like an idiot (drunk or otherwise), please know that the majority of us are just there to watch 2 great teams battle on a chilly, but beatiful night for football! And hopefully the police will take care of the idiots!

PS: Please remember that we cheered like hell for you against OSU last year so it ain't all bad!

Anonymous said...

Galen hit it on the head with part B. It is most definitely the oh-fer factor.

jdm said...

Actually, due to USC's atrocious schedule last year, an undefeated PSU team stood a good chance of playing in Pasadena in January. Beaten Texas? Probably not. But no unrewarded undefeated season either way.