Hello, Penn State Nittany Lions fans!
Today is the 100th meeting of PSU and the in state rival Pittsburgh Panthers. It will also be the last for the near future. In my opinion that is a shame. Penn State and Pitt played annually before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, in most seasons as the season finale. They then played 1997-2000 and 2016-2019. The next year Penn State has an opening is 2024 (they have open dates September 21, 28, and November 2) and they also have an opening in 2025 (August 30, October 11, November 8).
I'd love to see Penn State in the Big Ten but than isn't happening any time soon. In my opinion, Penn State and Pittsburgh should play every year. If I had my way, they would play to end the season. Many non conference teams end the season like the Florida Gators and Florida State Seminoles and Georgia Bulldogs and Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. In fact, here's a list of teams I think should end the season.
So instead of seeing Pittsburgh, Penn State will be playing home and homes with teams like Virginia Tech and Auburn in upcoming years. In an article in the Daily Collegian, John Shaffer, quarterback from the 1986-87 national championship team, said the goal is to beef up the schedule to win national championships.
But the problem is the College Football Playoff has not proven that strength of schedule has mattered much in who gets into the Playoff. By contrast, losing a non conference game like Penn State did to Pitt or Ohio State did to Oklahoma would cost the Big Ten champion a Playoff slot. Meanwhile, Alabama usually plays one decent Power 5 non conference game a year and three "Little Sisters of the Poor". It didn't cost them in 2017 when they didn't even win their division. If Penn State goes 11-1, it's likely not going to matter if they beat Pittsburgh or Auburn. But if they lose at Auburn and fall to 10-2, they won't go to the Playoff even if they win the Big Ten title (2016 proved that). So I don't see this as a valid reason to kill the rivalry.
Then the question becomes if Pittsburgh can't be Penn State's rival, who should be?
First, let me throw out the "wrong answers". Penn State has no rival or doesn't need one. That's boring.
Also, a few other teams can be thrown out. Rivalries have to be mutual. So as much as Penn State would love for the Ohio State Buckeyes or Michigan Wolverines to be PSU's top rival, neither one ever will be as neither will ever feel the same way about us as they do about each other. Also, Penn State and the Michigan State Spartans have ended the season and compete for the Land Grant Trophy. But ask Spartans fans the team they want to beat the most? It's not us, it's their in state foes (of course Michigan thinks of Michigan State as their little brothers, not their rivals).
If it has to be a conference foe, you can throw out the Indiana Hoosiers and Purdue Boilermakers as well for the same reason. As for Big Ten West Division teams, the only team that might make sense would be the Nebraska Cornhuskers although geography would be a big issue and they currently have a year ending series with the Iowa Hawkeyes.
That leaves in the East Division the Rutgers Scarlet Knights and Maryland Terrapins. Rutgers would be an embarrassment as a rival. If Penn State had to choose one of the other, I would choose Maryland. Penn State and Maryland played a lot before Maryland joined the Big Ten although Penn State leads 39-2-1.
As for non conference opponents, if Penn State isn't willing to play Pitt home and home annually I'm sure they won't play the Syracuse Orange home and home annually either. If the Temple Owls ever got to the level of Pitt, they would make a decent rival and an in state one (they will be playing PSU in 2026 and 2027). I'm not really big on the West Virginia Mountaineers (who will be playing PSU in 2023 and 2024). The other old rivals I remembered from the nonconference days were the Alabama Crimson Tide and the Notre Dame Fighting Irish. It would be cool if Penn State set up an annual game with either or both. Of course Alabama would never consider Penn State its rival. Notre Dame really doesn't have one true rival, maybe we can be their rival.
But rather than figure out a different rival, just bring back Pittsburgh starting in 2024!