Staff Picks: Who Should Penn State Football’s 10th Conference Opponent Be?
Last week, the Big Ten announced it will limit all fall sports, including football, to conference-only schedules this fall. For football specifically, teams will take part in a 10-game, conference-only season.
As it currently stands, Penn State football is set to take on the six Big Ten East teams as well as Northwestern, Nebraska, and Iowa. With its additional remaining game presumably up in the air, we asked our staffers which teams they’d like to see the Nittany Lions take on to finalize their abbreviated season.
Gabe Angieri: Wisconsin
The last time the Nittany Lions faced the Badgers was back in 2018 when Miles Sanders exploded for 159 yards and a touchdown. It’s time for another game between the two teams.
These squads are pretty evenly matched all-time, with Penn state edging out the Badgers with a 10-9 all-time record. Let’s not forget when Wisconsin represented the Big Ten in the Rose Bowl last season over Penn State despite having more losses than the Nittany Lions. Give James Franklin and his team a chance at revenge and put Wisconsin on Penn State’s schedule.
Owen Abbey: Illinois
Why should Penn State choose to play Illinois for its 10th conference game? Simply because the Fighting Illini aren’t as good as Wisconsin or Minnesota. Look, I have all the respect for Lovie Smith and everything he’s done as a coach there, but it should be an easy victory for the Nittany Lions.
Would it be a lot of fun to play a different, more talented team? Absolutely. But Penn State wants a championship, and it’s more of a surefire bet that the Nittany Lions beat the Fighting Illini than the Badgers or Golden Gophers. Wins and losses people, that’s the only thing the selection committee cares about. And if you want Penn State to have any chance at that playoff, it can’t have any marks in the loss column.
Michael Tauriello: Minnesota
Folks, Penn State needs to get even.
Widely regarded as the team that derailed the Nittany Lions’ College Football Playoff hopes last season, Minnesota is the perfect option to round out the team’s schedule. The Nittany Lions should be hungry to get even, especially after such a tough loss in 2019 (Editor’s note: Let the record show Tauriello picked Minnesota to win last season, which subsequently cursed Penn State and officially led to the loss).
Both teams also happened to retain much of their firepower on both sides of the ball for this upcoming season, possibly leading to yet another back-and-forth bout that could go down to the wire. Fans need a game that’ll feel exciting, and the explosiveness of a battle between the Nittany Lions and the Golden Gophers this season just might do the trick.
Will Pegler: Purdue
Penn State was already scheduled to play three fairly mediocre teams from the Big Ten West. With an extra conference game on the schedule (for now), why not step up play a team that’s some what on the rise in the Boilermakers?
Purdue isn’t necessarily a great team, as James Franklin has never lost to the Boilermakers, but I’m envisioning a weird, gritty Big Ten game as part of a season that’s already shaping up to be pretty odd, so why not roll with it?
Yes, Penn State made easy work of Purdue in 2019 by a score of 35-7, but the Boilermakers were without star wide receiver Rondale Moore. I’d love to see the Nittany Lion defense matchup against the speedster.
Matt DiSanto: Notre Dame
No matter how this fall’s college football season shapes up, it’s going to be different. Let’s get weird. As more and more conferences move toward conference-only schedules, independent programs like Notre Dame are hung out to dry as a pseudo-punishment for not being cool enough to join a conference of their own. Long story short: They need to play someone.
Regardless, a matchup against the Fighting Irish could be pretty entertaining this fall. Although it wouldn’t be chalked up as an easy win like Illinois or Purdue might, a faceoff against Notre Dame would help the program schedule its season a little easier and provide a marquee matchup for both fanbases. Plus, I’d love to make “Rudy” jokes all week long (Editor’s note: Rudy was offsides!).
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