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Penn State White Outs Should Be Exclusively Reserved For Marquee Matchups

When the Penn State White Out officially began in 2004, its creation served one sole purpose — to give the Nittany Lions an additional edge against the top home opponent to grace Beaver Stadium’s confines each season. 

While Joe Paterno’s battered 4-7 crew failed to outlast No. 9 Purdue in a 20-13 battle that year, the home crowd’s lasting effect proved to hold more merit than his squad’s performance did throughout the first spectacle of its kind. Nearly a year later, the Nittany Lions toppled No. 6 Ohio State in a 17-10 thriller in the program’s second-ever White Out showing in 2005. 

Following the massive upset, Beaver Stadium almost instantly morphed from “the quietest 100,000 people in the country,” according to its founder Guido D’Elia, into a bucket-list venue for sports fans across the globe to visit. Just 22 days after the Buckeyes dramatically fell in Beaver Stadium, Sports Illustrated tagged Penn State home game weekends as the “Greatest Show in College Sports,” a phrase that was recently trademarked by the university and put on visible display throughout Saturday’s bout with Minnesota. 

After the Nittany Lions’ 41-17 drubbing at the hands of Michigan just over a week ago in Ann Arbor, the White Out’s 109,817 attendance figure from Saturday evening is undoubtedly impressive. In fact, it’s practically solely due to how big of a deal the White Out has become over the span of almost two decades worth of tweaks and theatrical additions. 

However, with a crucial home date with No. 2 Ohio State looming, it’s fair to say the White Out has strayed away from its original intent and purpose. Regardless of kickoff time, weather concerns, combined records, or the fanbase’s overall buy-in, Saturday’s 45-17 beatdown of the Golden Gophers proved Penn State should always reserve its unparalleled home-field advantage when it needs it most. 

Throughout the offseason, Penn State Athletics surveyed fans through a variety of online methods asking whether the blue and white faithful prefer the magnitude of the matchup or the time of day when considering this year’s White Out date. Historically, the question never needed to be pitched before FOX acquired half of the Big Ten’s available media rights in 2017. 

Two years later, in 2019, FOX rolled out its Big Noon Kickoff package, where the network vowed to view its highest-stakes game of the week at noon on Saturdays rather than attempting to compete with ESPN’s Saturday Primetime scheduling. Unfortunately for Big Ten fans who typically watch games from stadium bleachers, the idea has arguably transformed into a widespread flop. 

Although Big Noon Kickoff has been intact for the better part of four straight college football campaigns, the “Greatest Show in College Sports” has yet to find its way on the network. While Penn State Athletics claims it chose Minnesota as the 2022 White Out victim mostly due to the 7:30 p.m. kickoff slot, the decision, in hindsight, seems like it was made as a flip of the middle finger to FOX, who holds the television rights to the Ohio State game. 

For context, the last time Penn State hosted an unranked team in the White Out was in 2010 when the Nittany Lions took on Michigan, who stood at 5-2 for the late-October clash. Since then, the Nittany Lions have faced off against ten straight top-25 opponents in the White Out, including seven who entered Beaver Stadium as top-15 contenders. 

Entering the season, Minnesota lurked as the Nittany Lions’ most intriguing home contest against teams not-named Ohio State, but even so, the Golden Gophers never sniffed the top-25 polls during a solid 9-4 run in 2021. Ultimately, PJ Fleck’s unit burst out to a fast 4-0 start this September, but a weak early strength of schedule ultimately showed its validity over the team’s latest three go-arounds. 

Minnesota’s stark three-game losing skid likely wouldn’t have been predicted at the season’s commencement, but Ohio State hasn’t lost three straight games since interim head coach Luke Fickell roamed the Buckeyes’ sideline in 2011. If history serves as an indicator, the divisional bout with Ohio State was always, and still is, the more meaningful game than the face-off with Minnesota could have ever amounted to. 

Since 2011, which happened to be the same season as Penn State’s last road victory in Columbus, not many opposing Big Ten programs have been able to keep pace with units led by Urban Meyer and Ryan Day. Over the 11-year span, the Buckeyes have compiled just five (5!) Big Ten regular-season losses, with only three coming against East Division foes. Undoubtedly, the White Out has provided the overpowered unit the most fits out of any other regularly-scheduled environment the Buckeyes encounter. 

In five total White Out matchups against Ohio State, the Buckeyes have narrowly outscored Penn State by a slim 124-114 margin, largely thanks to the atmosphere’s assistance. Conversely, when the Nittany Lions played Jim Tressel’s squad in a non-full stadium White Out in 2009 at Beaver Stadium, the favored No. 11-ranked Nittany Lions were rocked 24-7. 

This past weekend, over 109,000 fans clad in white helped Manny Diaz’s defense cause five first-half false start penalties, limiting Minnesota to just three first downs in the opening 30 minutes. While Beaver Stadium will surely be rocking for this week’s Stripe Out, players, coaches, and fans know the White Out presents an entirely different animal. 

Again, I’d be remiss to minimize the success of the recent White Out from a production standpoint. From the organized light show, pregame fireworks, and the student section filling to its brim with nearly an hour-and-a-half until kickoff, it would be hard to find a better, and more intimidating, scene across college or professional athletics. 

However, moving forward, I hope Penn State learned how impactful the White Out crowd truly can be on the gridiron action itself. Given Ohio State’s track record, the Buckeyes should always be pegged as the White Out’s victim when visiting Happy Valley, even if the matchup happens to be at noon.

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About the Author

Connor Krause

Connor Krause is a junior from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania double majoring in journalism and business. He is a lifelong Penn State football and basketball fan and enjoys rooting for Pittsburgh sports teams. In his free time, Connor can be found playing golf or pick-up basketball. You can follow his Twitter and Instagram @ckrause_31.

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