Bill O'Brien knows how to make the fans--more specifically, ticket-holding fans--smile. At yesterday's stop in the Coaches Caravan, BOB came out strongly in favor of scheduling more "marquee" matchups against national opponents.
“I will say this – and nothing is set in stone – what we are trying to do is have a marquee game every year. For instance, we could open the season maybe at a neutral site or maybe at Beaver Stadium that would be against, obviously, a major college power, like an Alabama, like a Southern Cal, like a Stanford.”
BOB cautioned that the schedule is pretty much set through 2015. And it is, save for a Sept. 26 date in 2015. (Correct me if I'm wrong there.) That sounds like a long time from now, but really it isn't. As many of you already know, these schedules are typically set up year in advance, due to contract negotiations and those sorts of things that take a while to work out.
Yet, in the arms race that is national exposure in college football, scheduling big-time opponents has become a tricky endeavor for most programs, not excluding Penn State. After a galling non-conference docket in 2009 that featured not a single interesting matchup, combined with increased ticket prices via STEP, fans were pissed. The only marquee game in Penn State's future was a home-and-home against Alabama in 2010 and 2011, but really, what other future opponents got your blood pumping?
Syracuse is a cute addition in 2013 and two dates next decade. The Temple "rivalry" has become a lose-lose for Penn State (PSU wins big: "Why didn't PSU win bigger?" PSU wins close: "OMG what's wrong with PSU?!" PSU loses: Mass suicide off the upper decks of Beaver Stadium.) Rutgers came onto the schedule for 2014-2015 when the Knights were much more in-vogue. And the Pitt home-and-home isn't starting up for another four years (2016-2017).
I will give Penn State credit for the Virginia home-and-home, which starts this fall in Charlottesville. UVA is on the ascent, and I seriously wouldn't be shocked if PSU came home with a loss in 2012.
However, the notion Penn State should be scheduling more national opponent is one not many could argue against. Michigan is going down to Texas this fall for a kickoff game against Alabama. Ohio State has home-and-home dates with California, Virginia Tech, and Oklahoma over the next six seasons. There is no excuse for Penn State to fall behind Ohio State in the non-con scheduling wars. Fans should want their teams to raise the bar, not try to lower it.
Penn State needs to open up its travel radius, just as BOB alluded to, and schedule those teams west of the Mississippi and south of the Mason-Dixon Line. This is a good start. At least BOB is open to and actively-promoting scheduling a wider array of marquee non-conference opponents. Whether it happens, we will just have to wait and see.
For now, though, we'll take it.