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Pitt-Penn State: Mental Math

As the long, actually rather newsy off season gives way to the dawn of a new college football campaign, the topics of the cold winter and hot summer fade and trail off.

Conference expansion, despite all the fireworks out west, no longer dominates the national headlines. "Agentgate" has quieted down. Even the big season previews are petering out as we pull to withing two weeks of actual games.

However, the eternal issue of Pitt-Penn State continues to hang around almost no matter what because of people like Bob Smizik.

You had to know spin from the Pittsburgh camp was coming after this article by Jerry Dipaola on Thursday. Notice neither "Joe" nor "Paterno" are mentioned anywhere in the article.

Once Bloggin' Bob got a hold of the comments from Penn State Athletic Director Tim Curley, though, he couldn't flagrantly disregard them fast enough on his way to blaming Joe for ending the series for the 234,574th time.

Curley told DiPaola discussions are underway in the Big Ten, which recently expanded to 12 teams, for members to play nine conference games when Nebraska officially joins next year. The Big Ten currently plays eight league games.

``That is one of the challenges I am struggling with as we contemplate going to nine conference games," Curley told the Tribune-Review. ``That reduces your ability to move around the country to make these games happen."

Of course, this does not fall to Curley or to Penn State or to Pitt. It falls to Paterno, 83, who is widely believed to be the man responsible for the end of the series. He does not want to play Pitt for what ever reason and no one at Penn State is going to push Paterno into doing what he doesn't want to do.

Sorry, Bob.  This has nothing to do with Joe Paterno. It's an issue of exactly what Curley is talking about.

Nine Big Ten games means five road games right off the bat every other year. In order to get to the requisite seven home games, Penn State would need to host all three out-of-conference games in those years. In the other years, you need two of the three out-of-conference games to go with the five Big Ten games.

This makes concurrent home-and-homes with Pitt and another national opponent impossible.

Sure, Penn State could schedule both Pitt and let's say Alabama along with a guarantee game in the off years, but the following year would mean trips to Pittsburgh and Tuscaloosa. That leaves Penn State with six home games and lots of red ink in the athletic budget.

Though concurrent series may have been feasible with four out-of-conference games, they're plainly not with three. Joe Paterno has no power over that. Penn State would need to cede playing other national opponents to make Pitt-Penn State happen annually, something Curley basically said later in Dipaola's article is never going to happen, Paterno or no Paterno. If Pitt would accept a 2-1, as has been on the table for a while now, then it's a different story, but Penn State simply cannot accommodate two home and homes in the new Big Ten. It's a matter of simple math.

Any attempt to make more of this by the Pittsburgh media or fans is ill-informed and flat out wrong.

I'll qualify this by saying that if the Big Ten stays at eight conference games, the Pitt folks will have a point. If these two teams can't play every year, they should at least have a home and home once a decade. As I said, though, in the context of Curley's comments yesterday about nine games, Joe Paterno's vendetta or lack thereof is irrelevant.