James Warren and Michael Fuller are friends at Penn State Erie. They're brothers in Delta Chi fraternity. For three hours on Saturday, they won't be speaking to each other.
While Fuller (junior-anthropology) will be joining Nittany Lion nation in rooting for Penn State, Warren will be pulling for the Buckeyes.
Warren (sophomore-international business and marketing) moved to Ohio's capital in fifth grade, just as his interest in college football began to flourish. Cheering the guys in scarlet-and-gray was a natural choice.
"When I was in Columbus for all that time, my team was Ohio State," he said.
But while sticking to his allegiance at University Park might be almost untenable, Warren is certainly not alone in Erie and other Pennsylvania towns along the Ohio border.
"It's split pretty much down the middle between Penn State and Ohio State," Fuller, from Erie, said of his hometown.
Bound by coal and steel and at times only separated by tollbooths and liquor laws, the familiarity between Pennsylvania and Ohio breeds a noticeable contempt come Saturday.
As for the schools, some of that hostility goes as far back as early last century. In 1912, Penn State's trip to Columbus marked the farthest west the team had ever played, Penn State football historian Lou Prato said.
Penn State's president at the time, Edwin Sparks, had graduated from Ohio State and hoped the game would be the beginning of a rivalry between the schools. The 1912 contest, however, proved to be less than competitive.
In a bloody affair, the Nittany Lions were dismantling the Buckeyes when, with about seven minutes left, they scored again to go up 37-0. That's when things got interesting -- Ohio State refused to come back out on the field, claiming "unnecessary roughness."
The referees told Penn State to stay on the field and endure the insults and debris hurled by the Ohio State crowd until the clock ran out, Prato said. Penn State was awarded a forfeit and the game ball reads Penn State 1, Ohio State 0.
Though Prato said Ohio State officials apologized profusely to the Nittany Lions at the train station the next day, the two teams would not meet again until 1956. "The great Ohio walk-off" fueled tensions that laid the groundwork for a Penn State-Ohio State rivalry, Prato said.
Friction between Ohio and Pennsylvania is also ignited every year by the Big 33 Football Classic, a match-up of high school players selected from Ohio and Pennsylvania.
While Pennsylvania's opponent in the game has varied over the game's 50-year history, a handful of Big 33 players have consistently graced Penn State and Ohio State rosters for the last 15 years.
Current Penn State players like Gerald Cadogan, Abe Koroma and Pat Devlin all played in the Big 33 game. Ohio State freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named to Pennsylvania's 2008 Big 33 squad but dropped out from the game.
Pryor was being heavily recruited by Penn State and Ohio State when the lineup was announced.
Prato pointed out the last time Penn State beat Ohio State in Columbus was 1978, when the Buckeyes were led by freshman quarterback Art Schlichter, who had been sought after by both schools. Schlichter tossed five interceptions and the Lions won 19-0.
John Greene, Big 33 executive director and former Nittany Lion running back, grew up in Youngstown, Ohio. He said he could relate to both the quarterbacks in Saturday's matchup -- Pryor is from outside Pittsburgh, Penn State's Daryll Clark is from Youngstown.
"Both those kids are playing in opposite states," Greene said. "They want to show some ability for where they came from but also do well for their schools."
Greene said his experiences growing up and playing under the lights in hard-nosed eastern Ohio were similar to what he found in the Keystone State.
"Friday nights were for high school football and Pennsylvania was the same way," he said.
Just across the border from Youngstown, Penn State Shenango's student body consists of about 10 percent Ohioans and much of the campus faculty lives in Ohio, said Chuck Greggs, associate director of enrollment management.
"We definitely have a few Ohio State fans on campus but they usually get drowned out," Greggs said. "We try to keep them in their place."
Greggs also noted Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel led Youngstown State, about 15 minutes away from the Shenango campus, to four I-AA titles.
"There's a lot of loyalty to Tressel in this area," he said.
Even in the middle of Pennsylvania, some State College residents still call Columbus home. Greg Gabbard, owner of City Lights Records, 316 E. College Ave., grew up there and arrived in State College in 1985.
Gabbard said the difference between Columbus and State College is easy to sum up: The former is a city, the latter is a town. And before Penn State joined the Big Ten, his fan priorities were also simple: Ohio State first, Penn State second.
Meanwhile, Amy Mullen, a 2007 alumna of Penn State's College of Medicine, feels a bit out of place among the Ohio State graduates working at Nationwide Children's Hospital in Columbus.
"The people here are crazy," Mullen said laughing. "If you take a walk around my neighborhood in my Penn State sweatshirt you'd understand."
Back in Erie, Warren and Fuller are getting ready to pack up and travel an hour along the Lake Erie coast. They'll be watching the game across the border at Kent State's Delta Chi chapter.
Warren should feel right at home. But Fuller, who remembers trying to storm the field after traveling to University Park for the 2005 Ohio State game, said he's prepared for the consequences of covering himself in Penn State garb.
"I'll be in enemy territory this weekend," he said.