All that, of course, would have been moot had Penn State lost its first major test of the year, a visit to the Horseshoe for a date with Woody Hayes’ 6th-ranked Ohio State Buckeyes.
Penn State was No. 5 in the nation following two lackluster wins over Rutgers and Temple, relying heavily on special teams and the defense to carry the Nittany Lions over the finish line in both games. Ohio State, meanwhile, was playing its season opener against Penn State, and planning a few new wrinkles on both offense and defense. Would Hayes’ offense, known for almost single-handedly inventing the “3 yards and a cloud of dust” style of football, come out with the hot-shot freshman quarterback Art Schlichter throwing early and often?
In the end, however, none of what Ohio State had planned to do would matter. Penn State came out ready to shut down the Buckeyes. By the time the final whistle sounded that day, the Nittany Lions defense would force eight Buckeye turnovers, including four interceptions. It would be a launching pad for Penn State’s historic rise to its first-ever No. 1 ranking. For Ohio State, it would be the second time in 14 years the Nittany Lions shut out the Buckeyes on their home turf.