(Ed. note- this was published just prior to the Big Ten’s announcement of a conference-only schedule in 2020. We’ll leave this up so you can still consider what could have been.)
There’s no way of knowing how the 2020 college football season will play out. Schools are giving it their best shot to make it happen, but the possibility seems strong that the eventual schedule will look slightly different - whether that’s a conference-only schedule, a spring schedule, or something similar to the current schedule with perhaps an opponent or two and/or date swapped out. For now though, let’s take a look at the 2020 schedule as it currently stands.
12. San Jose State - Sept. 19, Home
It’s the first meeting on the gridiron between these two programs, an early-season game against a Mountain West team coming off a 5-7 isn’t going to stir up much excitement with fans. This seems destined to be a noon game, unless BTN swoops in to make it a prime time kickoff.
11. Rutgers- Nov. 28, Away
It’s a shame that while all of these classic rivalry games take place during Thanksgiving weekend, Penn State gets...Rutgers. This season will at least have the added storyline of Greg Schiano returning to Happy Valley, although it’s going to take him some time to build the program back up and be competitive against Penn State and most others in the Big Ten.
10. Maryland- Nov. 21, Home
Penn State fumbled away the infamous “handshake game” in 2014. The following season saw Penn State win a 31-30 thriller in Baltimore. Since then? Penn State has outscored the Terps 201-20, with Maryland mustering just six points in the past three seasons.
9. Kent State- Sept. 5, Home
Penn State should end up winning this game by a large margin, but the Golden Flashes are a well-coached team that plays to the best of their ability, and have a fantastic quarterback returning to lead the offense. They can make things interesting for a while before competing for a MAC crown in 2020. Plus, they get some bonus points for being the season opener.
8. Northwestern- Sept. 26, Home
If you caught any Northwestern games last year, there’s a good chance it’s because you lost your remote. The Wildcats lethargic offense was enough to put the most ardent football fan to sleep. Without expecting a dramatic uptick in productivity this fall, this should be a game where Penn State builds and early lead before taking the gas off the pedal to churn out the clock and get everyone out healthy as they prepare for the three game stretch of Michigan-Iowa-Ohio State.
7. Michigan State- Nov. 14, Home
The Battle for the Land Grant Trophy seems to be set for a similar result to last year’s contest, as Penn State walked away with a 28-7 victory. Mark Dantonio has left the sidelines, and the Spartans seem to be set for a major rebuild — which is especially scary when considering how inept the offense has been of late. Thankfully, the upsets at the hands of Sparty in 2017 and 2018 seem to be just a fading memory.
6. Indiana- Oct. 31, Away
This should probably be a spot higher, but a trip to Lincoln feels more special than the regularly-scheduled semiannual trip to Bloomington. The game itself has the potential to be interesting, and potentially catastrophic for the Nittany Lions. It’s the biggest trap game of the season, as the team hits the road against a capable Hoosiers team a week following it’s clash with the Buckeyes, and following the aforementioned Michigan-Iowa-Ohio State stretch.
5. Nebraska- Nov. 7, Away
At this point, the pundits seem to have given up on the near-annual talk of this being the year the ‘Huskers make it back to prominence that has been prevalent ever since the glory days that ended early this century. Scott Frost has the pedigree and has the ‘Huskers fans imagining a return to glory, but I’m waiting to finally see results before getting too excited for this one. Still, it has the potential to be a very entertaining late-season tilt.
4. Iowa- Oct. 17, Home
Thankfully, the Nittany Lions avoid a trip to Kinnick this fall. Still, the Hawkeyes are almost never an easy out. Buckle up the chin straps for this one, as Iowa will make you earn a victory the hard way.
3. Virginia Tech- Sept. 12, Away
The Hokies may not even be ranked when this game is played in week two, but the first-ever meeting between these two is cause for excitement. Hopefully some Nittany Lions faithful will be able to make the trek to Blacksburg for the historic meeting.
2. Michigan- Oct. 3, Away
It’s been more than a decade since Penn State won in the Big House. The last time the Nittany Lions defeated the Wolerines on the road, Joe Paterno was still head coach, Daryl Clark was under center, Graham Zug caught three touchdowns while Navarro Bowman led the team in tackles. Translation: It’s been too damn long. This year marks the best opportunity in some years for the Nittany Lions to come out on top, as the teams welcome the month of October with a huge showdown.
- Ohio State- Oct. 24, Home
You knew this would top the list as soon as you saw the headline. Penn State must get past the Buckeyes to claim the throne of the Big Ten and make it’s first playoff appearance. Until something drastic happens with either program, this will be one of the most important games of the college football season.