Harrison Thought: New eras at PSU & OSU

Posted Sep 3, 2012

Week 1 Thought: Harrison on the new eras at Penn State and Ohio State

CFN Analysis 

Harrison Thought, Sept. 5

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Week 1 Thoughts 
- Fiutak: Bring on Savannah State!
- Cirminiello: Oregon & Kelly keep on rolling 
- Zemek: It's not time for top teams to worry ... yet
- Harrison: Penn State and Ohio State, welcome to your new eras
- Mitchell: SEC East stumbles 
- Johnson: The ACC's rocky opener   
By Phil Harrison
The Polar Opposite Debuts of Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien
Follow me on Twitter @PhilHarrisonCFN

There are new sheriffs in town with two of the most storied programs in the history of college football. But aside from Ohio State and Penn State being two of the blue-bloods of the sport, the situations and expectations surrounding each are as different as fire and ice.

On the banks of the Olentangy, Saturday was met with enthusiasm and excitement for a fan base that is still wobbly on their feet after being clocked by a tattoo scandal and subsequent dismissal of their sweater-vest wearing coach. Last year, the program spent what felt like an eternity in college football purgatory, just waiting to pay some penance and move on to bigger and better things. The team squeaked into a bowl, only to fall to one of its arch nemesis in yet another SEC squad--Florida. The team finished with a losing season for the first time since John Cooper took over the reigns of the program back in 1988.

But the page has turned, and despite the one-season bowl ban, the anxiety level has waned in Columbus, and it has birthed a level of anticipation fit for a Block-O party.

And party they did on Saturday. Urban Meyer's crew started out of the gates slow, but kicked things into high gear beginning in the second quarter and then unleashed points in bushels. When the pixie dust settled, OSU had waxed the Miami Redhawks by a score of 56-10. The offense was fast-paced, efficient, and full of big plays.

Probably the most appreciated aspect of the new regime was a change in demeanor and attitude of the players donning the silver helmets. Conservative play-calling was thumbed at by the new head man, field goals were a second priority to touchdowns, and once a lead was forged there wasn't a sweater-vest attitude to be found anywhere. Instead, the Meyer approach was to step on the throat of the opponent and put them away. Suffice it to say many Redhawk players are having problems speaking today.

Things are still building in Columbus, but the blueprints and artist renderings appear to be pointing towards a Taj-Mahal type of program. And at the epicenter of it all is one Urban Frank Meyer.

In the state just to the east of Ohio however, things are much different. Bill O'Brien has been given the keys to the program, but its like getting the keys to a cadillac that has been stolen, stripped down, and left tattered and beaten by the side of the road.

Unlike Ohio State, Penn State is still entering a storm that may not pass for quite some time. Off the field, Jerry Sundusky has been convicted, and many more legal actions are beginning. They'll likely continue for years to come. In addition, the football team--seen as a symbol of the heinous acts that occurred on campus--has been slapped with a four year bowl ban and scholarship reductions among other penalties. This all after it had concluded its search for a head man to navigate the rough waters ahead. That man's name is Bill O'Brien.

O'Brien, much like Meyer, also had his christening this past weekend to much less fanfare because of the magnitude of what transpired prior. Despite it all, there appeared to still a bit of optimism abounding. Sure there were a few meaningful defections from the team, but there's still enough talent on the Penn State roster to play some decent football in 2012. The defense still has NFL talent, and the offense--though not a juggernaut by any means--has enough horses to manage a game and take advantage of what the defense hands it. After all, Bill O'Brien has brought an NFL game to town, holstered and loaded for bear.

But the Penn State team fired nothing but blanks on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions lost to an Ohio team that, while a very solid MAC squad that might contend for a league title, had no business coming into State College and pushing the Penn State team around. It didn't look that way at first as Penn State got out to a fast start. But then, as if simply weary from the haymakers and uppercuts from what the community had been through, this PSU team looked to wear down. And when all of the shouting stopped, the scoreboard showed that Penn State had lost--this time not as consequential as it had when things all went wrong in life--but in the form of a game played by young men. A game that it thought could still be played with enough talent to postpone the sand that was inevitably running out of the hour glass.

Let the slide begin.

It's going to be a long, long time before Penn State is relevant in the college football world, and it appears to be happening sooner rather than later. The storm clouds have rolled in, and everyone had better batten down the hatches because the eye is still coming on shore--both on the field and off of it. Bill O'Brien appears to be a solid citizen, and he may just be the right man to get through this dim forecast that has been laid out before him.

And nobody is envious.