New Penn State coach James Franklin has spoken publicly about playing his former team, the Vanderbilt Commodores, sometime in the future. New Vandy coach Derek Mason has been quoted as saying he's willing to take on his predecessor's team "any time and place". And coming as early as 2016, there may be the perfect venue of watching the two teams clash in Nashville.
The Tennessean reported yesterday that city and sports officials in Nashville are in talks of coming up with an early-season, high-profile matchup between an SEC school and a team from another major conference, à la the six-year-old Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic that is played in Atlanta at the beginning of every season. According to the report, Atlanta has seen $195 million injected into their economy by the game since its inception, which has the Music City seeing dollar signs. The Chick-Fil-A Kickoff Classic has attracted non-conference teams like Clemson, Virginia Tech and Boise State to come and take on the SEC's best in Alabama, Auburn and LSU in its history.
There are multiple reasons why a matchup between Penn State and Vanderbilt, two teams that have been forced into having a connection, at LP Field in a few years would make sense. First off, while Franklin has said that a game in Beaver Stadium would make sense between the two teams, the statement lends credence to the fact that he doesn't want to see a home-and-home series between the schools. A game at a "neutral-field" site--which pays out $5 million between the teams--certainly would cushion the blow of not playing in Happy Valley. It is well-known that Penn State is a traveling fanbase and would have no problem getting spectators in Nashville to make sure it isn't a home game for Vandy. On the flip side, Derek Mason's side benefits as well from having what they could consider to be a home game as well as taking in a decent chunk of change from the game's payout.
Secondly, a national spotlight game on the opening weekend of the season would only help both squads, but especially Penn State, who hasn't played in a Kickoff Classic game since 2000 when they took on USC in Giants Stadium. Franklin has already been proven to be a winner on the recruiting trail, but an season-opening win against what has become a more-than-respectable SEC squad would perk up ears that might not have been alerted beforehand. Plus, that isn't even mentioning the fact that it's a season-opening win against a more-than-respectable SEC squad while traveling to the South that allows the Nittany Lions to get a headstart in that year's college football playoff discussion.
Provided this new kickoff classic game is set up to be approved for 2016, and Penn State and Vanderbilt are selected as its initial participants, the Lions would have to boot someone from their three-game, non-conference schedule that has already been filled. Kent State and Temple are slated to come to Beaver Stadium while the first of a four-game series with Pittsburgh is on the slate for 2016, so sorry, Golden Flashes, we have a portfolio to build that year.
Here's hoping for a trip to the home of country music in a couple of years.