For once, Penn State needs to be like Pitt
By Joe Smeltzer
Tonight should be a much bigger deal than it is.
For one, there won’t be 110,000— or even 10,000— people inside Beaver Stadium.
Penn State also should be in the top 10. Instead, the Nittany Lions are barely in the top 20.
The Nittany Lions obviously had nothing to do with a global pandemic, but they had a lot to do with losing to Indiana last Saturday.
Instead of being within striking distance of the College Football Playoff, Penn State is No. 18, which means the path to the playoff would be immensely difficult even with a win over Ohio State.
There is a positive way to look at this from a blue and white fans perspective, and believe it or not, it involves looking to the Pitt Panthers for inspiration.
Penn State fans who grew up in the Pittsburgh area, like myself, know all about Pitt. Sure, many of us thumb our noses at the program, but deep down, every Penn State fan knows what Pitt does on a year to year basis.
“PITTing” has become a verb in this city. For those who don’t know what that means, it’s a term that encapsulates habits that have become known to their tortured fan base. One of the staples of “PITTing” is the Panthers knack for beating top teams and losing to mediocre ones. It started in 2007, when Pitt came in a 4-7 and beat No. 2 West Virginia, and has happened several times since. In 2013, Pitt lost to Navy and beat Notre Dame. In 2017, Pitt beat second ranked Miami two weeks after losing to a North Carolina squad that finished 3-9 at home. That 45-3 loss to Notre Dame last week might indicate that there won’t be that type of trademark win in 2020, but nonetheless, this is what Pitt does.
And it’s what Penn State has a chance to do tonight.
The James Franklin era has been pretty cut and dry— beat who you’re supposed to beat, and lose to a top five team. Losing to Indiana last week put a dent in the narrative, but maybe it’s an omen that the narrative, at least for 2020, is changing.
If Penn State somehow beats Ohio State, it would be a weird feeling of ecstasy mixed with a kick in the crotch. Any win over the Buckeyes is cause for celebration, but, at least for me, the thought of “if only they beat Indiana” would burn for probably the rest of the season.
Penn State fans don’t want to be compared to Pitt and won’t have to be, at least until the teams start playing again.
But Nittany Nation should be hoping their team can pull a Pitt tomorrow and win a game it has no business winning, right after losing a game it had no business losing.