Bill O'Brien has made his first major off the field move leading the Penn State Nittany Lions in the post-Joe Paterno era. Penn State and Pitt have come to terms on a two game series, starting in 2016, to play one another. This is a big deal in the state as the two long time rivals have not met on the field since 2000 and have had issues in scheduling since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten in 1991.
Right now the series is back for two games, but O'Brien makes it clear that he wants to make this an every year affair which is refreshing to hear from a coach. Especially the coach of the "power team" that does not necessarily need the game to sell out their stadium. Good for him and Penn State for making this game happen for the state of Pennsylvania.
In this same vein, there are a couple of other games that we feel should definitely be annual contests on the college football landscape. They would be great for the fans, great for recruiting, and obviously great for business.
North Carolina - South Carolina
The Tar Heels and the Gamecocks have played 55 times through history, with North Carolina owning a 34-17-4 edge on their southern counterpart. From 1950 to 1970 this was an annually played game. Prior to 1953, UNC and South Carolina were conference mates in the Southern Conference before becoming rivals in the ACC. From 1971, when South Carolina left the ACC, the two squads played nine times before the Gamecocks joined the SEC in 1991. After playing the 1991 contest the teams took a 16 year break before meeting again in 2007. The return trip to Columbia by the Tar Heels was delayed to play LSU in the Chick-fil-A kickoff in 2010.
While the pair will meet in 2013, this is a game that has a lot of interest in the Carolinas. UNC has NC State as their chief rival, while South Carolina plays Clemson in their season finale, but to see the two Carolinas battle it out on the gridiron would be a treat. An early season game, perhaps in Charlotte, NC, could have a bit of a "World's Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party" feel to it. Neutral site, easily drive-able for both fanbases, and a game that would most certainly draw eyeballs.
Miami - Florida
Florida always has their big season finale with Florida State. Miami plays the Seminoles every season, as the pair are locked into games through the ACC. The only Big Three game that does not happen yearly is the Gators and the Hurricanes. These teams did not play each other at all in the 1990's and since the turn of the century two of their five meetings came by way of bowl games.
Miami needs this game more than the Gators for obvious reasons; getting butts into seats at Sun Life Stadium. Picking up another BCS opponent without leaving the state of Florida would at least push some of the nitpicking about the Gators' scheduling to the back burner.
Oklahoma - Nebraska
A lot of the younger fans out there, ones who don't have their nose stuck in history books, likely do not realize that this game was one of the premier contests on the college football schedule. The days of the Big Eight gave way to the Big Twelve and with that move came the massive reduction in the frequency of this rivalry. Instead of an annual contest it became an every few years showdown. They have played 86 times but it does not look like the Cornhuskers and the Sooners are pushing to get together for a game anytime soon.
Nebraska left the Big Twelve for the Big Ten and Oklahoma, with their nine-game Big Twelve schedule, is focusing their efforts on playing games that boost their status. That boost can come from a recruiting standpoint in getting down to Florida to take on the Seminoles or from a national spotlight, like this seasons game against Notre Dame. We sure would like to see them pick up where they left off, the 2010 Big Twelve Championship Game was 23-20 slugfest that Oklahoma won as the league said goodbye to the Cornhuskers.
Texas - Texas A&M
Yes, the Aggies and the Longhorns played just a season ago. However, Bill Byrne and Texas A&M are now in the SEC and the Longhorns have made it clear that they have no intention to play their College Station counterparts anytime soon. Effectively, things are over between the two longtime rivals. Not just in football, but in sports in general. A little bit of Texas sticking it to Texas A&M for their decision to try and remove themselves from the Longhorns' shadow.
Tough break for the rivalry but it is one that there is still interest in around the nation. Whether they picked the game up as an opening weekend non-conference game or the Aggies went the way of their SEC brethren; UGA-GT, South Carolina-Clemson and Florida-Florida State, and play the game in the finale, it would be a big deal in the state. Both teams are taking the hard line now. We will see what happens down the road as emotions cool off and all that remains is the benefit of the game.