Penn State Football: Nine Game Conference Schedule Announced, Ireland Game Still In Flux
The Big Ten announced Sunday afternoon that a nine-game conference schedule would begin during the 2016 season as well as new divisional realignment beginning during the 2014 season.
The new divisions will feature more geographically friendly arrangements with Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers in the East Division. Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin will make up the West Division.
With the start of the nine-game conference schedule in 2016, teams from the East Division will host five conference home games during even-numbered years. Teams from the West Division will host five conference home games during odd-numbered years. The rotation of play will allow for each student athlete to play each team in the conference at least once during their career.
For Penn State and Bill O'Brien the addition of one conference game in 2016 continues to narrow down the remaining openings for a possible overseas trip to Ireland.
“What's difficult about that is the Big Ten is deciding whether to go to a nine or 10-game schedule in the future so we kind of have to wait to see what they do. We kind of have to wait there," Penn State coach Bill O'Brien said earlier this year.
“Then you have to find an opponent that's willing to make that trip. That's where it's at right now but we're definitely exploring it and trying to be aggressive about it.”
As the schedules stand today, Penn State has few dates in the immediate future to work with.
The 2014 season holds one opening on September 13 assuming a previously scheduled non-conference trip to now-Big Ten foe Rutgers is nixed. In 2015 two openings remain assuming that the return trip against Rutgers is also dropped.
With an unannounced future date against the University of Central Florida and ongoing talks with the University of Miami at least one of the three openings will be filled if not two.
A full non-conference slate in 2016 leaves no room for an additional game.
From 2017 on the schedule opens up greatly with only home and away dates against Pittsburgh having been filled.
Schedules are flexible and as Virginia proved only months ago, no game is set in stone. However as for now, the window for landing a game overseas in the immediate future is slowly closing.