Our colleague at Black Shoe Diaries, Cari Greene, was good enough to answer a few questions for those traveling west this weekend. She's got some good advice - ignore at your own peril.
What's the best thing about State College as a college town?
The fact that it's almost all about Penn State. It is most definitely its own community, and if you're a Townie you might disagree, but the University and the town are so synonymous. The town just feels different when school is in full session, even in spring; there's a feeling in the air that you don't get when there's a break. It's borderline magical.
What makes the fanbase in State College/central PA so good?
A lot of it is the fact that there's not a whole lot to do very close to State College [Editorial note: we knew that!], so everyone heads up to the sporting events just to hang out. Not everyone goes into the games; even in the spring game, when you don't need a ticket and you get in for free, you'll see thousands of people still hanging out in their tailgates outside Beaver Stadium. It's not about the football or the product on the field a lot of the time; it's about the Penn State family, and the people that you only get to see those eight times a year when you're drinking and grilling and chatting it up under the canopy or at the RV.
Terrelle Pryor said Penn State was "too country" for him, and that rubbed some people the wrong way—but he wasn't that wrong. State College basically is in the middle of nowhere, and if the wind is blowing a certain direction you'll get a whiff of cow more often than not. And that brings out a lot of people who don't have a lot of options but to make their fun with their Penn State family on Saturday.
What should Rutgers fans expect when they arrive in town and at the stadium?
On gameday, a LOT of tailgating. In and around the stadium, and it's all organized—not isolated pockets here and there around campus. Penn State's got it down to an art. And even if you're wearing Rutgers gear, you'll be able to find plenty of Penn State tailgates where you'll be welcomed with free food and alcohol and other game talk—and, of course, good-natured smack talk.
Around town, since there's not much for students to do, you'll find a lot of college bars with very cheap drinks—you'll be able to buy a round for the whole place for the price you'd pay for two to three beers in NYC. There's a couple dozen bars in State College, but your best bet is to fight the crowds downtown so you don't have to walk—though cabs (and now Uber) are cheap and plentiful in SC—if you don't mind waiting a little bit.
Last year, there was a lot on the blogs about RU and UMd joining the B1G. And there's the perceived lack of rivalry with all three. What's the true feeling among PSU fans about Rutgers? and Maryland, if you want?
We don't really have many feelings. To be honest, most of us don't care too much—we are just sick of the Big Ten and others trying to push manufactured rivalries on us. If a rivalry is going to happen—with Rutgers, or Maryland, or Temple, or Pitt, or Michigan State or whomever—it's going to happen organically, and it's going to happen when the teams consistently beat each other on the field, and spoil great seasons. That takes time and can't be forced. And it can't happen when one team does all the hating and the other is pretty ambivalent, which seems to be the case right now.
Food and drink: Any great craft breweries worth checking out in the area? Sports bars to watch and share CFB or get some good local brews? Or are we restricted to ice cream?
Otto's is the best in town, imho—it's located on North Atherton and does all their own brews. I'm a stout girl myself, so I'm a huge fan of their Black Mo. Check out their flights if you're indecisive. Their menu is quite extensive and awesome as well.
Rutgers has the grease trucks; where in State College can you go to get a heart attack-inducing meal? Or a great local food choice?
See above :)
But definitely check out the Creamery as well—there's a reason why it's consistently the only University-affiliated creamery on top-25 ice cream shop lists. My faves are WPSU Coffee Break and Alumni Swirl, though I've heard that the fairly new Russ Digs Roseberry is great.
I also recommend the Tavern for their Sunday Brunch buffet if you're still in town the day after.
What other great attractions are there in and around PSU?
Not much. [Editorial note: we knew that, too! ]There are some good caverns nearby, but most of us clear out (hungover) the day after.
What should Rutgers fans watch out for or be aware of in State College? Our fans are excited about football and they are, well, fans. But how should they act/behave around the home fans?
Don't make Sandusky jokes—those are tired, and we know you're better than that. [Editorial note 3: Hear that? Don't do it!]
Just generally don't be a dick, and we'll have your back. We're known for being nice to opposing fans—even Ohio State ones, the outliers are the ones that get the press, but I've had a ton of opposing fans at my tailgates and they all marvel at how nice we are. If you're amiable and aren't belligerent, you'll be fed up and treated well. We're proud of our school and our scene, and 99% of those of us around the stadium reflect that and want to show the visitors why we are.
What should a fan of any visiting team never say to a PSU fan?
I think that's pretty obvious. You guys aren't dumb.
Also, as ZuZu can attest, don't call a woman a dude.