This morning, ESPN.Com released a list ranking the top 60 games of the 21st century.
Three Penn State games made the cut. One of them is one of the best nights in recent memory for Nittany Lion fans. The other, not so much, and the third one is somewhere in the middle.
Coming in at number 49 was Penn State’s upset win over No. 2 Ohio State in 2016. That night, of course, is best remembered for Marcus Allen’s blocked kick setting up Grant Haley’s game-winning touchdown return. The upset launched Penn State’s 2016 Big Ten championship campaign and is cited as a turning point for James Franklin’s program.
The No. 57 game on the list can also be looked at as a turning point, but as a negative one. “Penix to the pylon” are four words any Penn State fan recognizes.
Penn State started the abbreviated 2020 season ranked eighth in the country. Any thoughts of a college football playoff berth, however, evaporated Week 1 in Bloomington, Indiana.
With Penn State leading 35-28 in overtime, the Hoosiers scored to cut the deficit to one. Coach Tom Allen decided to go for the win rather than kick the extra point and tie, and in controversial fashion, it paid off. Quarterback Michael Penix Jr. dove for the pylon, and although most Penn State fans probably believe his knee hit the ground before the ball touched the stick, officials ruled it a touchdown on the field and the play stood after review.
That was the beginning of a miserable 2020 for Penn State. The Nittany Lions lost their next four games to start 0-5 and finished with a losing record for the first time since 2004.
The highest ranked game on the list is then 2017 Rose Bowl between Penn State and USC. Although the Nittany Lions fell, 52-49, it was still an exciting end to a Big Ten championship season that put the Nittany Lions back on the map nationally. It also featured maybe the most famous touchdown run of Saquon Barkley’s college career.