The Big Ten released the lottery results of next year's conference schedule yesterday afternoon. With the addition of Maryland and Rutgers to the league, the single-play draw is more important than ever. The league schedule remains at 18 games next year, but instead of four one-plays, there are now eight - four at home and four on the road.
As an example, the red hot Virginia Cavaliers currently possess a sparkling 15-1 ACC conference record. But with the addition of Pitt, Syracuse and Notre Dame to the league, the Cavaliers were able to draw Pittsburgh, North Carolina, Syracuse and Duke only once on their league schedule. For a team like Penn State who's struggling to break through to the top half of the league, a favorable draw similar to Virginia's can do wonders in their pursuit of the NCAA tournament.
You can get the full list of every school's draw in the official release, but Penn State's conference opponents are as follows:
Home & Away - Wisconsin, Ohio State, Minnesota, Maryland, Rutgers
Home - Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Purdue
Away - Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern
Overall, it's a pretty fair draw for Penn State, although getting Ohio State and Wisconsin twice certainly isn't appealing. Despite the series sweep of Ohio State this year, these teams are a combined 36-6 against Penn State under Thad Matta and Bo Ryan. The Lions will also welcome the league's two newest members with two games next winter. I wouldn't say definitively that this is a favorable draw for the Nittany Lions, but it could have easily been worse in what many feel will be a make-or-break type year for the program.
While the conference opponents are now known, most of the non-conference games have been pegged already as well. Penn State will get three games down at the Charleston Classic in an 8-team field that currently consists of Cornell, Akron, South Carolina, USC and Miami FL with two more schools TBA. They also will have road games against Marshall and Bucknell as return trips from home-and-home contracts (or 2-for-1, in Bucknell's case).
It still seems safe to assume the B1G/ACC challenge will expand to 14 matchups next year (with the new 14-team Big Ten and 15-team ACC) and PSU would then have a game there, but with the World Wide Leader in charge, Penn State doesn't have total control over the game's location. If they get dumped another road contest, that gives Pat Chambers' squad at least six non-conference games away from the BJC, which is exactly half of their likely 12-game non-conference slate.
With so many road trips already inked, it's quite possible the Philadelphia/Pittsburgh state tour will be put on hold next year, as the home-and-home deals signed with in-state schools Duquesne, La Salle, and UPenn have expired. However, not having a homecoming game in Philadelphia for DJ Newbill's senior year doesn't seem quite right either. Time will tell how PSU will fill out the rest of their schedule (if they haven't already) as the official release is expected around mid-to-late summer.