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Sometimes Life Gives You Cupcakes

I'll be the first to tell you Penn State's out of conference schedule in 2009 is pretty weak. If we're fortunate enough to be undefeated late in the season, there is just no way come November I'll be able to make a case for why Penn State deserves to play for the national championship because of our convincing wins over Akron, Syracuse, Temple, and Eastern Illinois. I can accept this is a terrible schedule, but what I can't accept are statements like these. (emphasis mine)

Dan from State College, Pa., writes: After looking at some of the cupcakes on Penn State's schedule this coming fall, I can't help but be somewhat irritated. Eastern Illinois? REALLY? Call me crazy, but I would much rather see a good OOC team in that slot instead. Perhaps another Pac10 team? Cal? USC? I really can't be the only person who thinks some of these teams are too creampuff for Penn State. Why aren't we scheduling the USCs of the college football world, like Ohio State?

Hold on there, Dan from State College. I'll accept that Penn State's schedule is pretty weak, but I'm not going to let you suggest Penn State is ducking the competition. Let's talk a bit about how this schedule came about.

The first thing to keep in mind is that sometimes matchups that look great at the time they are signed don't look so great five years down the road. In the spring of 2002 when Penn State signed the deal to play Syracuse in 2008 and 2009, the Orange were coming off a 10-3 season. Though they are utterly abysmal now, at the time they were riding a string of 15 straight seasons with a winning record. There was no reason to believe Greg Robinson was going to run the program in the tank over the next five years. Sometimes cupcakes just happen. But credit Penn State for scrambling to get Oregon State on the schedule at the last minute in 2008.

More after the jump...

The other thing that can mess up a schedule is that sometimes teams back out on you. For instance, we were supposed to play Alabama in 2004 and 2005.

''Alabama officials approached us with a request to postpone the dates due to the issues they were facing with N.C.A.A. sanctions,'' Penn State's athletic director, Tim Curley, said yesterday.

The Crimson Tide was scheduled to visit Penn State on Sept. 18, 2004, with the Nittany Lions playing at Alabama on Sept. 10, 2005. The new agreement delays the home-and-home series until 2013 and 2014. (BSD - since this article was published the dates were moved up to 2010 and 2011.)

You want to talk about ducking competition? There's your ducking competition. Alabama wanted easy wins until they got out from under the NCAA sanctions. As a result Penn State's out of conference schedule in 2004 and 2005 featured Akron, Boston College, Central Florida, Cincinnati, South Florida, and Central Michigan because they couldn't schedule another marquee name on such short notice. Now we get to play Alabama in 2010 and 2011 when Nick Saban should have them firing on all cylinders. I guess Dan from State College either forgot or didn't know all of this.

We just wrapped up a two year series with Notre Dame. Before that it was Boston College. Before that it was Nebraska. Going forward, Penn State has a series with Alabama, Virginia, and Nebraska. I'll admit Virginia and Nebraska don't look so hot right now, but those of you with premium BWI memberships may have read yesterday there are some interesting scheduling developments going on that should be made public in the next few weeks or months when everything is finalized. I can't reveal the schools being discussed, but rest assured the schedule is about to get a lot tougher. That is, provided nobody backs out or hires Greg Robinson between now and then.