As Bill O’Brien continues to lead Penn State through one of the football program’s toughest times, the scandal that happened at Ohio State quietly sits in the shadows.
With Urban Meyers at the helm of the Buckeyes, the fact that Ohio State has NCAA sanctions seems to be forgotten by both fans and high school recruits a like.
The facts are these: neither Penn State nor Ohio State will be eligible to win the Big Ten this season. But from what we’ve seen so far this season, Saturday’s game will be a battle between two of the top teams in the conference.
With the many great rivalries of the Big Ten, Ohio State vs. Michigan and Michigan vs. Michigan State, the Penn State vs. Ohio State rivalry is often forgotten.
Since 1993, these teams have faced off every season, with the Buckeyes coming out on top in 12 of those games.
Being adjacent states, these teams have always had a classic recruiting battle.
With the talent rich Western Pennsylvania area, in recent years Ohio State has capitalized, signing Terrelle Pryor and Jordan Hall most notably.
But this season is one of change and transition for both programs.
In the offseason, Ohio State picked up arguably the most desirable head coach available, while Penn State brought in a dark horse in O’Brien.
So far this season both coaches have shown that neither of these historic programs are going anywhere, no matter their scarred pasts.
Obviously Meyer has a slightly easier task recruiting, with fewer sanctions and only a one-year bowl ban.
Meyers has proved himself a strong recruiting during his time at Florida, and once again his upcoming class is very strong. Surprisingly though, of the 17 players committed to Ohio State, none of them are from Pennsylvania.
O’Brien has also shown a strong ability to recruit in his first season as a head coach.
Not only has he been able to keep some of the top recruits, such as Adam Breneman and Christian Hackenberg, he has also been able to guide his team to a 5-2 record.
With all that has happened at Penn State this year, that in itself is a feat that is very attractive to potential recruits, but it isn't the only thing O'Brien has done this year.
The transformation of quarterback Matt McGloin, who has turned into a new player in less than a year under O’Brien, has to open the eyes of recruits.
In past games it has been obvious that the Penn Staff coaching staff simply out-coached their opponent.
The Nittany Lions’ game Saturday in Happy Valley though, is much bigger than any coaching O’Brien has done or any promises he made.
Who wins on Saturday?
This game is going to be Penn State’s first true test against top talent, and O’Brien first test against a top football coach.
Saturday is an opportunity to show recruits where exactly Penn State is in its transition into a new era.
On an ESPN televised game, recruits will be seeing the whole package: the prime time television coverage, the student section “white out”, and the rivalry.
These things are only half of the package though, and beating Ohio State would make that package complete.
A Penn State win over the Buckeyes would be more than a notch in the win column; it would be a statement to the nation.
It would mean everything for Penn State recruiting.
O’Brien can promise the world to any recruit, but what he does on Saturday will speak louder than anything he has said.