They once were the beasts of the East, and after a long hiatus in the series, one almost certainly will feast on the other Saturday afternoon.
Syracuse's football program has hit rock bottom - winning just seven games in four years - and the Orange don't figure to have much of a chance against Penn State's high-powered offense. The Nittany Lions are favored by 27 points on the road.
Still, just seeing the two programs renew a rivalry that has included plenty of great games and some of the biggest names in college football history is enough to make the contest interesting.
''When you're 7 years old and you're out there just playing football, you're out there looking to play in this game,'' Syracuse coach Greg Robinson said. ''If you're going to Syracuse, you want to be playing against Penn State.''
The Lions have played the Orange 68 times - second only to 96 meetings against Pitt - and the teams battled every year from 1944-90.
Then, poof, the rivalry ended. All the tradition, all the nostalgia, gone. Why?
"If you're going to Syracuse, you want to be playing against Penn State."
-- Syracuse coach Greg Robinson
Joe Paterno told the story for what he said was the 100th time Tuesday.
''I wanted us to have an Eastern conference [in the early 1980s],'' he said. ''Syracuse and a couple other people were all wrapped up in basketball, Big East basketball. I thought I had almost pulled it off.''
Paterno couldn't pull it off, though, and while Syracuse basketball grew up with the Big East, Penn State opted for the security of the Big Ten for its football program. The Lions need seven home games to fund the athletic program, Paterno says often, and they haven't felt renewing rivalries with Syracuse - or Pitt - was in their best interests.
It's taken 18 years for the two sides to finally meet up again on the field, and they'll do so next year, too, when Syracuse visits Beaver Stadium.
''I think it's great that the two schools are going to play each other again,'' Robinson said. ''I think of Penn State as a team that should probably be in the Big East. They're Eastern football.''
It's been so long since the teams squared off that the current players have little knowledge of the rivalry's significance.
''To be honest with you, I'm not very familiar with the rivalry,'' PSU safety Anthony Scirrotto said. ''We did, before practice [Monday], Coach Paterno talked to us about how big this game is.''
Paterno remembers everything about the Syracuse rivalry, including a story of how his predecessor, Rip Engle, had a feud with former Orange coach Ben Schwartzwalder.
''Schwartzwalder said one time, 'I wish we didn't play this game. All I want to do is get that Engle out there in the middle of the field and I'll knock the heck out of him,''' Paterno recalled. ''They supposedly hated each other.''
Supposedly, but not really.
''Rip retired, Ben retired,'' Paterno said. ''They went to coaches convention [and their wives] are inseparable. They've knocked heads, but when it was all over, they were great buddies. And I think I've always felt pretty good about Syracuse that way.''
Paterno remains friends with former Syracuse coach Dick MacPherson, who oversaw the program's resurgence in the 1980s. MacPherson once called Paterno asking about a recommendation for Paul Pasqualoni, a former PSU player whom MacPherson hired and who later became Syracuse's head coach during the Donovan McNabb era.
Paterno also recalls stories about the great Syracuse running backs of the 1950s and '60s like Jim Brown and Ernie Davis. Brown was on the 1959 team that beat Penn State, 20-18, on the way to the school's lone national championship.
''We went for two and didn't make it,'' Paterno said.
Penn State also lost to Syracuse the next year, 21-15. That Orange team featured Davis, who went on to become the first black player to win the Heisman Trophy and the first selected No. 1 overall in the NFL draft.
Davis' tragic life story - he died of leukemia at age 23 and never played pro football - has been made into a movie called ''The Express,'' starring Dennis Quaid as Schwartzwalder and Rob Brown as Davis.
This weekend figures to be one of the most exciting in recent Syracuse football history as the film will have its world premiere Friday night.
''He was a great football player,'' said Paterno, who also called Davis ''a class kid.''
''I didn't know him well,'' Paterno added, ''but you know certainly he was someone that college football and Syracuse can be proud of. I think it's great they made a movie of him.''
Syracuse expects to have a number of alums return for the big weekend, which should provide the Orange some extra motivation for the game.
''From their standpoint, there's going to be a lot of people there, very famous people,'' Scirrotto said. ''Jim Brown's going to be there. It's going to be a packed house.''
Cory Giger is at 949-7031 and email@example.com.