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B1G 2022, Penn State of the State #2: Who’s Penn State’s One True Rival?

And what goes on the true Pennsylvania soft pretzel?

SBNation

If the foods chosen for this week are any indication of misdreavus’s diet, I think it’s time for an intervention, gang.

Today we’re highlighting something I genuinely did not know about Philadelphia and Pennsylvania (but should’ve inferred, I guess, because Germans) thanks to Philly Mag:

Per a 1988 New York Times article on visiting Philly’s pretzel factories, pretzel-twisting was the second-highest-paying job in the city back in 1861. (Tobacco workers were the highest paid.) The article states that the first pretzel factory in America was opened in Lititz, in Lancaster County, in 1861 by Julius Sturgis; one of his sons, Lewis, ran it almost until his death in 1976. He would tell stories of how his father learned his recipe from a traveling hobo and how the family sent pretzels to a son who was imprisoned at Andersonville during the Civil War. Among the pretzel factories the Times recommended touring were the still-extant Center City Pretzel Co., Philadelphia Soft Pretzels, Inc. (whose pretzels went into space on the Columbia space shuttle in 1996), and the Federal Baking Company. Per the 1987 book The Larder Invaded, the earliest record of a street vendor selling pretzels in Philly is of one Daniel Christopher Kleiss, in the 1820s.

They actually do seem pretty obsessed, for whatever that’s worth.

So, writers:

What’s your preferred soft pretzel – both provenance and toppings/dippings?

WSR: My preferred soft pretzel is the one I have in front of me. In my late teens I worked near a place that made pizza-stuffed soft pretzels, and they were absolutely incredible and now just thinking about them I may need to run to Hy-Vee to get some ingredients to try to make them tonight.

Green Akers: I confess to very basic behavior re: pretzels. I don’t care much for mustard, so lightly salted and dunked in that nuclear-orange nacho cheese suits me just fine.

Townie: I used to work summers in the Philly area. And I often bought soft pretzels from vendors waiting at the off-ramps. I will gladly eat them without any topping. But if I have some hot, spicy brown mustard, I’m in heaven.

misdreavus79: This entire week could not be farther away from my regular diet. I was, after all, born in the Caribbean! But hey, I lived in Pennsylvania for a good while, so I’ve been exposed to just about all the delicacies in this here week!

My soft pretzels of choice, when I used to go to the mall in the Reading/Wyomissing border, were of the sweet variety, with that cinnamon sauce I no longer remember the name. It was pretty freaking delicious, if I say so myself.

BRT: I don’t think I have strong opinions on soft pretzels. I enjoy them on the rare occasions I have them, but that’s typically in a sporting event situation and it’s just salt and the creepy cheese.

MNW: Ooh, I’m sorry everyone. We were looking for “the Chessie”. The Chessie.

Zuzu: OK oh my god so. I freakin’ love soft pretzels. I hate beer, but I will got a brewery because they almost always have them on the menu. I love a pretzel with spicy brown mustard, and, believe it or not, and I know some of you know of my aversion to cheese, but I can do soft pretzels with a melty, heavily processed nacho cheese. Like at movie theaters. AMC soft pretzel bites with nacho cheese are my go-to movie snack.

Poll

How do you like your pretzel?

  • 18%
    The nuclear cheese is just fine
    (29 votes)
  • 47%
    Spicy brown mustard
    (72 votes)
  • 5%
    Pizza-stuffed
    (9 votes)
  • 13%
    Say more about that cinnamon dip
    (21 votes)
  • 14%
    THE CHESSIE
    (22 votes)
153 votes total Vote Now

Football

Yesterday Townie came in pretty hot, telling us he has a “sneaky good feeling” about his Nittany Lions, a team that notably did not win the 2021 Lambert-Meadowlands Cup.

That’s right, we’re talking about Pitt.

Penn State is alternatingly #UNRIVALED, rivals to Ohio State or Michigan State or someone in the Big Ten, ostensibly (s/o the Governor’s Victory Bell), or briefly and really vociferously angry about Pitt until the game ends and they’re back to professing how little they care.

Some might say that when talking about rivalries, Nittany Lions fans really…

…tie themselves in knots.

(It was WSR’s fault. Don’t blame me.)

But let’s take the Nittany Lions’ rivals–starting with the Pittsburgh Panthers, of course, but celebrate the return of the West Virginia rivalry in 2023-2024, look to the Syracuse home-and-home in 2027-2028 (h/t FBSchedules), and consider the perhaps-budding rivalry if the Terps can crawl their way into relevance under Mike Locksley.

Tell me, writers:

1. Who do you consider the rivals of Penn State? Play scheduling god for a moment: how would you handle the Nittany Lions’ non-conference scheduling of these rivals?

2. Any East Coast teams you wish were on your team’s non-conference schedule?

3. Any “rivalries” you really don’t want to think about (think beyond football) but that are probably there? (It’s OK to admit it. This is a safe space and definitely won’t be published on the internet.)

WSR: Obviously the biggest rival Penn State has is their outdated expectations for the football team based on results accomplished when JoePa was too much of a damn coward to be in a conference. That, and Rutgers.

I’ve always loved the Gophers games with Syracuse, and I wouldn’t mind seeing more of them from time to time. Knocking off Donovan McNabb was a great memory, and I’ve heard rumors that they got air conditioning in their dome after replacing Carrier as the name sponsor. Pretty cool stuff!

Rivalries I don’t want to think about? Well, when Minnesota played Mankato State in the Frozen Four, my phone was vibrating so often receiving taunting notifications from friends that it jumped off my coffee table multiple times. I would really like to not have to care about the Cows or JBSU or Duluth for a while, so it’d be really nice if Minnesota Hockey could act like Minnesota hockey and start salting the earth again.

MNW: “the Cows or JBSU or Duluth” – oh, you are just the worst kind of person.

Green Akers: They have kind of the same relationship with Ohio State that MSU does with Michigan in regarding them as their One True Foe even as the other fanbase loves to pretend that matchup doesn’t really matter, except PSU then turns around and acts the same way towards Maryland and Rutgers.

As far as those noncon matchups go, you can’t play all of them every year, but one of them ought to be there every season. Just rotate home and homes onto the schedule with Pitt, WVU and Cuse and you always have a reasonably-interesting noncon with a short enough turnaround time that the fanbases remember whatever imagined slight/unsportsmanlike behavior/obvious officiating conspiracy they’re mad about after any given loss. That’s how these things simmer, baby.

Sitting here, the Avalanche have a 2-1 series lead in the Stanley Cup final, and I had thought until the series started that the hatred I have for that team had been snuffed out entirely, but just seeing those stupid fucking jerseys with the Cup on the line, all I want to do is rewatch scoring 6 goals on Patrick Roy in the first period of a game 7. Can’t imagine they think much these days about a Red Wings organization that’s crawling out of years of Ken Holland’s mismanagement, though.

MNW: I had always considered it Pitt, but I have to say that I think Maryland’s making a run at the thing – the Turtles seem to have a handle on the petty stuff. In the meantime, for the non-conference, I think Green Akers has the right idea: a solid rotation of things, maybe with it a little more heavily weighted to Pitt.

There oughta be more Northwestern non-conference games in New England – I’d love the return of home-and-homes with Boston College or, hell, maybe even a two-for-one with Army. I mean, nothing went wrong the last time we were there… East Coast ‘Cats fans travel well enough, and it’d be nice to head to Rentschler Field. Why not. Who cares.

In terms of these rivalries, Northwestern generally goes the other way, caring more about a contest than the “rivals”. Fuck Illinois, though.

BRT: I thought their rival was Rutgers? Is it not?

As for East Coast schools I wish were on Nebraska’s schedule, I’d pick anyone who was 6-6 or worse last year, because I’m a realistic person. I have no emotional reason to pick any East Coast school, so my answer is “anyone who is bad enough that Nebraska might actually be able to finish the deal and defeat them.” Football is so fun, you guys.

Rivalries I don’t want to think about… Kansas State no longer really qualifies, but because of proximity, it still feels somewhat present, in spite of a lack of actual on-field contests. I still recoil a bit when I see that purple wildcat (no, not the Northwestern one!) logo on someone’s “no I’m not compensating for anything my truck is just super tall and loud why do you ask?” truck or XXXL sweatshirt. That feud got pretty nasty in the 2000s, as you’d expect from a school that put a cat head on a human’s body and called it a mascot.

Townie: I love how salty the writers get when you don’t do the whole mid-western:

Aww shucks the team will probably suck this year, the cows got bloat, and there’s a bad corn wilt going around…

As for rivalries, it’s hard. I may write a longer piece about it. But in consulting duck duck go, I found this data: https://www.sports-reference.com/cfb/schools/penn-state/head-to-head.html.

Teams we played more than 30 times are: Pitt (93), Syracuse (71), West Virginia (55), Maryland (45), Temple (45), Penn (43), Navy (37), Ohio State (36), Michigan State (35), Rutgers (32), and Iowa (31).

Pitt is the most balanced rival, with the games split 47-43-4. Syracuse is second at 43-23-5. The other top five are lopsided until you get to those pesky Quakers, who own the series 18-21-4.

Of those teams we played at least 30 times, Penn State is ahead in the all time series against all but Penn and Ohio State. And we are tied with Sparty at 17-17-1.

So who really is Penn State’s rival?

As a kid, I got fired up for West Virginia. Those games were always fun. If we’d had White Outs back in the 1980’s, we would’ve had them for the Eers. Talk about raucous games and fans. The stories about those trips to Morgantown are the stuff of legend.

But the real answer is Pitt, probably. When I was growing up, you always saw “Shitt on Pitt” T shirts and “My Two Favorite Teams are Penn State and Anyone Who Plays Pitt” bumper stickers.

But that doesn’t market well with Pitt being an also ran ACC team and Penn State now in the B1G. If we look at the B1G teams with more than 30 meetings, the series’ against Maryland and Rutgers are lopsided - 41-3-1 and 30-2-1, respectively. So that doesn’t really work.

Ohio State and Michigan State both have established rivalries, so they feel a bit contrived. To be honest, I like the Iowa rivalry, because of the wrasslin’ tie in. And they hate us almost as much as Maryland.

misdreavus79: Who do I consider a rival? Well, ranked:

  1. Pitt. Has been, always will be. Sure, they don’t play every year anymore, but when the coaching staff of both schools spend offseason after offseason throwing bows across each figurative ponds, you know the fire is still there.
  2. Ohio State. Here’s the thing about modern-day rivalries: The way you show it is by shouting from the rooftops how little you care about them! So it doesn’t actually bother me that much that some Ohio State fans go out of their way to say it isn’t. That’s par for the course and will continue to be par for the course for a good long time.
  3. Maryland. I was going to put Michigan State as third, but the fact that Maryland and Penn State are also competitive in basketball puts this one above for me. And here’s where we put the Ohio State thing in reverse: Penn State fans go well out of their way to talk about how not a rival Maryland is, but go look at the postgame threads for the two times they’ve lost to the Terps.
  4. Michigan State. It’s one of those “friendly” rivalries, but the Spartans, at least as of late, have routinely found a way to ruin Penn State’s promising seasons (2017 and 18 come to mind).
  5. Iowa. This was another “friendly” rivalry, until last season. Now they can all go fuck themselves. 2023 can’t come soon enough.
  6. Rutgers. Until Rutgers wins in football, this is going to be more of a basketball thing. But hey, if Minnesota can still claim Wisconsin as a rival winning once every 13 years, then Rutgers can be here too, right?
  7. West Virginia/Syracuse/Temple. These are teams Penn State used to play pretty often, all three of which are on the schedule in the coming seasons, and all of which have a lopsided history against the Lions. More so than Pitt, these are teams that get the older fanbase going, but not so much for the younger fans.

The way I’d handle the scheduling is quite simple: Play Pitt 4 out of 10 years (doesn’t have to be consecutively), Cycle through the others Another 4 out of 10 years, and have a home and home with a non-traditional rival the other two years. You can even double-dip some years and play two of them when you have five Big Ten home games.

To answer the East Coast question without just regurgitating the rivals listed above, how about we reschedule the Virginia Tech series, now that Brent Pry is out there? Also, Virginia, pay the fuck up! Come catch your beating you dodging sons of…

I don’t know that there are any rivalries left after the ones I mentioned above. Minnesota maybe? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Zuzu: So this is about football. I don’t have such strong opinions on this anymore, if Penn State wants to view themselves as “Unrivaled” then whatever. I will however plug this article I wrote back in 2016 which lists a bunch of valid ideas. But I think the Big Ten’s forced, “You’re gonna be rivals with Maryland and Rutgers and you are gonna LIKE it,” will work in the end. I think Maryland is a good in-conference contender. Maryland has beaten them twice since they joined and there is still bad blood from the no handshake thing. And whether or not Penn State fans admit it, they absolutely love beating Rutgers. Because of all the New Jersey people at Penn State and because we are New Jersey, a legitimate rival state to Pennsylvania. We hate one another, why wouldn’t our flagship schools? So if Rutgers gets good, the fire is already there. I mean I guess Pitt too, state rivalries are pretty cool, but they’re a decommissioned rival. But yes I think Pitt should join the Big Ten and reactivate it.

I would love to see Rutgers regularly schedule Syracuse. That’s an old-school rival I could get behind playing more. West Virginia would be cool too. I was gonna say UConn, but they don’t deserve legitimacy and their football program needs to die already.

I’m gonna say it. I think Rutgers and Indiana have a weird thing going on. People say they don’t detect it in person, only over the internet, buuuut we have a pretty evenish competition record since playing one another in the Big Ten. They thought they were free from being the conference doormat with the addition of Rutgers, but haven’t secured that for themselves. I also think Penn State and Iowa is an interesting little thing.

Also, not a question you asked, but the best rivalries are those that have very different team colors. This is why I WANT Rutgers to become a true rival of Penn State.

Poll

Penn State’s One True Rival is...

  • 50%
    Pitt
    (116 votes)
  • 13%
    Ohio State
    (32 votes)
  • 0%
    West Virginia
    (2 votes)
  • 15%
    Maryland
    (35 votes)
  • 9%
    Someone else
    (23 votes)
  • 10%
    #UNRIVALED
    (24 votes)
232 votes total Vote Now