Way back in 1999, a different century ago, Freddie Prinze, Jr. starred in this movie “She’s All That” as a cool kid in school (SHOCKING ROLE FOR HIM) who was charged with turning a pretend-not-cute social outcast into a prom queen within a six-week time frame.
It’s a typical Hollywood eye-roll, because Rachael Leigh Cook being the ugly chick in school is about as probable as getting Boardwalk on your McDonald’s coffee during its Monopoly campaign. It’s a “what you see isn’t always what you get” message.
Penn State and Ohio State play this weekend, and the Buckeyes are Rachael Leigh Cook. Left for dead twice, here they are, antagonizing the college football world with their more-than-possible CFB Playoff run.
An August ago, Penn State was entering another season on sanctions playing for pride, and Ohio State was thrust into an alleged rebuilding year after losing senior quarterback and Heisman candidate Braxton Miller for the season. After a week two home loss to Virginia Tech, all of that “they’re rebuilding” stuff was validated.
Since then, this might end up being the best individual-season coaching job Urban Meyer and his staff have ever produced. Since then, Ohio State has been putting up 56 points per game, and if you think Miller replacement J.T. Barrett isn’t a Heisman Trophy candidate, you’re not watching. Or you’re not paying attention, one of the two.
These two teams, Penn State and Ohio State, meet Saturday night on different roads to redemption with their own gravel paths navigated.
As is so often the case with NCAA sanctions, the residual effect isn’t immediate. Yes, there’s the attrition of an outgoing staff and an incoming new one, plus the departure of players not wanting to ride out the punishment storm.
PSU is feeling that weight now, and as is the case with Southern California or any school suffering substantial punishment, it happens in the trenches. The Nittany Lions are coming off a bye week after letting consistently limp Michigan live in their backfield on offense. Penn State was unable to come away with a win the Wolverines desperately wanted to give to them.
Depth is where sanctions slit you. The young players that still have a career ahead of them take off, and you’re left to play guys you normally would never recruit on your two-deep. Now, PSU can recruit to the PSU level, and expedite the process of coming back to where PSU once was.
Ohio State will look to flex more muscle and jam another log into the CFB Playoff fire … one the Buckeyes would have never been a part of seemingly a month ago. In two weeks, they’ll play Michigan State in East Lansing, and if chalk goes chalk, it’ll very possibly be a playoff game to get into a playoff game.
There are different types of redemption on the field on Saturday night in Happy Valley. What happens from there is the stuff we sit down to watch.
J.T. Barrett for Heisman. PSU for a bowl game. OSU might end up prom queen while everyone else is scoffing and saying they can’t. Prinze, Jr. has nothing on Barrett, apparently.