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Penn State Football: Nittany Lions Shelving Pitt Series Makes Sense, So Now Let's Stop Talking About It

by on May 14, 2018 1:00 PM

This past week I spent a lot of time in a car over a 30 or so hour span.

A drive to Philly, then to DC before heading back to State College. I've had worse drives (hello Northwestern) but by the time it was all done I was ready to sit on the couch and not move. Sitting on my couch is, if you must know, one of my many talents.

Why make the drive? Penn State's coaches caravan has traditionally been a place to nail down James Franklin and Sandy Barbour on the little details. Things that are big picture and away from the horde that is Penn State's usual football beat. It's a chance to catch up on philosophy rather than team specifics.

For as long as the caravan has been around it has been exactly that. Bill O'Brien rolling up his shirt sleeves to talk about fourth down, James Franklin laughing on a patio about branding, Sandy Barbour breaking down the science of scheduling. I've learned more at times from the caravan in May than I have football games in October.

So it's safe to say that two straight days that included questions about the Pitt series, or lack thereof, weren't on my particular list.

And I get it, Pitt has done its damnedest to speak a series extension into existence, but Penn State and Sandy Barbour have been letting the phone ring since December. There has been little indication that is going to change while Barbour is at the helm before 2030, per her own words. So you've got to write that story and you've got to get everyone on the record about a rivalry that matters to a lot of people. I might have turned into a grumpy near-30 human (oh God), but I understand why people have to ask.

But now we've got the quotes.

So maybe we can stop talking about it? Please.

James Franklin, perhaps equally baffled by the whole thing, said it best.

“If you’re looking at the Pitt-Penn State series as just the Pitt-Penn State series, it’s been fantastic. It’s been awesome. There’s excitement, there’s a buzz about it. I think it’s been really good for the state of Pennsylvania. Obviously we’re keeping a game that has some historical value to it as well," He said.

“All that is wonderful, but when you’re talking about Penn State doing what’s best for Penn State based on the nine-game model, and the previous model that didn’t allow us to play I-AA opponents, I don’t know that it makes a whole lot of sense. The strength of schedule is a huge part, or was supposed to be a huge part of the selection committee. That really hasn’t panned out. You wouldn’t necessarily say that after looking at it the last couple years.

“So what you have to do is — based on your institution and your program — is everything in your power to be undefeated and win your conference championship. All the other variables, you can’t control them.”

That's basically everything that needs to be said about Pitt/Penn State.

It has nothing to do with Penn State wanting to avoid the Panthers. Pitt beat Penn State and could do it again and in the future probably will. It isn't even an issue about being "too good" for Pitt and some alleged superiority complex. Beaver Stadium was packed this past season for that game and while it may have been otherwise, playing Pitt absolutely helped. Penn State doesn't need Pitt, but that doesn't mean playing Pitt doesn't help Penn State.

But let's be frank, this isn't rocket science. In a world where non conference wins can differentiate teams and a playoff field is determined by a lot of little details, Pitt isn't the best option on the table. Whether or not Penn State has an inflated sense of self-worth is secondary to the fact that Pitt still isn't very good, probably won't be great anytime soon and that the powers at be would be doing their program a disservice to schedule a team for a sense of novelty over playoff oriented pragmatism.

This will undoubtedly make some people mad online, that's not the point, I have no horse in this race and if you enjoy what is an otherwise enjoyable rivalry I don't blame you.

I'm just ready to shelve the topic for the next decade.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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