Auburn or Michigan? Debating Which Team Should Be Penn State’s 2021 White Out Opponent
Since being introduced in 2004, the White Out at Penn State has been one of the best atmospheres in all of college football on a yearly basis. The White Out has given us some of the best moments in Penn State football over the recent years such as the quadruple overtime win over Michigan, Grant Haley’s game-winning field-goal block returned for a touchdown against Ohio State, and Michigan being forced to call a timeout before the game even started due to the crowd being so loud.
Typically, the White Out is played against Big Ten foes in what is regarded as the biggest home game of the season. The last time the White Out was not played against Michigan or Ohio State was in 2011 when the Nittany Lions took on the Alabama Crimson Tide.
However, in 2021, the Nittany Lions are set to take on the Auburn Tigers on Sept. 18, and this matchup has many people questioning if Auburn should be the White Out game over the Michigan Wolverines on Nov. 13. Five of the CommRadio sports department’s college football experts—Eric Fenstermaker, Adam Babetski, Christopher Hess, Alex Rocco and Matt McLaughlin—give their opinion on the matter.
Eric Fenstermaker: Auburn
Auburn is one of the best teams in the SEC and one of the most formidable opponents Penn State will have faced in recent history outside of the Big Ten. The Tigers are an intriguing matchup for the Nittany Lions, and they deserve to be Penn State’s White Out choice for 2021.
Since 2012, the White Out has featured only two opponents for Penn State: Ohio State and Michigan. This type of monotony can make fans disinterested if the matchups feature the same teams every time. Meanwhile, Penn State has played Auburn just twice: a 43-14 win in 1996 and a 13-9 loss in 2002. Variety is the spice of life, and I believe that fans will be more excited about Penn State’s biggest game of the year if there is a new foe for the Nittany Lions to face.
The White Out isn’t exclusively for the best Big Ten matchup each year. It should be for the biggest, most important matchup each year for the Nittany Lions.
Additionally, in recent history, Michigan hasn’t proved to be a worthy opponent in White Out games. Since 2010, Michigan is 1-4 against Penn State in the White Out. Michigan’s last White Out win was 2015; before that, it was 2006. On top of that, two of Penn State’s best White Out games were against Notre Dame and Alabama—both out of conference opponents.
If the Nittany Lions want to have the best atmosphere for next season’s game, they should pick the out-of-conference opponent with recent success and greater intrigue, and that’s Auburn.
Adam Babetski: Auburn
Penn State’s White Out game should be against Auburn. The Auburn game will be a rare chance for Penn State to make a statement against an SEC powerhouse in what will be their most high profile non-conference game in years.
Since the game takes place in September, it will be both the freshman and sophomore classes’ first chance to see Penn State football host a big-name opponent. On top of that, the novelty of going to a sold-out football game will likely still be in full effect for both students and alumni.
Penn State can afford to break off from the monotony of interchanging Ohio State and Michigan White Outs with a truly unique experience.
Christopher Hess: Auburn
The White Out has been reserved for conference matchups every year except for two, and those years were 2007 and 2011 with the opponents being Notre Dame and Alabama, respectively.
Penn State has only played Auburn twice in program history, and both matchups were bowl games in 1996 and 2003. Two historic programs are going to duke it out on the big stage, and this is the perfect opponent to spice things up against.
Now, I’m not knocking on having the White Out every other year against Michigan and Ohio State; those are the perfect teams to hold the event against. But how often do you get an SEC team traveling up to a northern school as high-profile as Penn State?
Sept. 18 should be a day that both fan bases have circled on their respective calendars. Making the White Out game early in the season against an unfamiliar opponent is an opportunity that, quite frankly, is too good to pass up.
MAKE IT HAPPEN!
Alex Rocco: Auburn
I personally think the whiteout game should be Auburn, as the last time Penn State played an SEC team in the regular season was Alabama in 2011. The SEC is widely regarded as the best conference in college football, and if the Nittany Lions want to come away with a huge win, they are going to need the fans to be as loud as ever.
Due to the Big Ten not allowing any fans in 2020, the last White Out was against Michigan in 2019, and I think that the White Out should not be against the same team back-to-back. It would also add some variety, as some fans might be getting bored seeing Michigan and Ohio State always being the White Out opponent.
Matt McLaughlin: Michigan
With Michigan and Auburn likely to be Penn State’s possible opponents for the annual White Out, the decision is clear for which opponent should face the Beaver Stadium sea of white: Michigan.
As a sports fan, I want to see competitive games first and foremost, and right now, Auburn is going through major changes with head coach Gus Malzahn being fired this offseason. Frankly, this game will likely be a blowout; it’s just getting so much hype because an SEC team decided to come to Happy Valley.
With Michigan, the Big Ten rivalry is already there. The Jim Harbaugh-getting-over-the-hump narrative is there, too. The “will James Franklin get his team back on track?” narrative is there. There are many more storylines and intriguing components to this matchup that will unleash the crowd to its fullest potential.
If you need any more evidence, look at the dates of each contest. Auburn visits University Park in Week 3, while Michigan comes in Week 10, the week before Thanksgiving. The White Out needs to have some sort of build-up to it so it feels more important. Why waste the prestigious White Out week just three games into the season?
Boom. Mic drop.
Adam Babetski is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Eric Fenstermaker is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email email@example.com.
Christopher Hess is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Matthew McLaughlin is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism to contact him, email email@example.com.
Alex Rocco is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.