Things are not going to get better in Happy Valley for quite some time. Players are looking to transfer now and possibly later. The head coach has to play football with an FCS-sized roster against BCS-level teams. There is no bowl to reward kids with and, quite honestly, the light at the end of the tunnel is so far off, it is tough to imagine what happens when it gets here.
However, there are two schools that find themselves as possible beneficiaries of the mess at Penn State. No, the scandal itself did not serve to benefit anyone and you never wish ill upon children. However, in the current climate it must be noted that if two schools cannot raise their profiles then they will never pick themselves up off the mat.
We're not talking about Purdue and Illinois, two of the Nittany Lions divisional compatriots. True, they should be able to claw their way above Penn State in the next few seasons but a healthy, full rostered PSU quickly passes those schools; as they should. This is also not about Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State. Those schools will continue to duke it out for Big Ten titles, while Penn State will merely be taking themselves out of the mix.
Sure, all of those schools might grab a recruit or two from the Nittany Lions in the near future. They will have the ability to take a package deal Penn State cannot, or a borderline player that Bill O'Brien was not willing to risk grabbing. They'll get an elite player that wants to go to a bowl game or a playoff shot.
However, the two schools that truly have to elevate their standing in the face of the fall of Penn State have nothing to do with the Big Ten at all. The two schools that have to make a move now are Pittsburgh and Maryland.
In the last 12 seasons both Maryland and Pittsburgh have out-recruited Penn State, according to Rivals.com, just six combined times. Maryland at four and Pitt at just twice. As it stands now the Nittany Lions, still early in the process, are ahead of both Maryland and Pittsburgh during a recruiting season kicked off in the midst of a scandal.
Maryland is slowly coming around. They have finally steered the ship in the right direction with Mike Locksley smoothing things over. Pittsburgh, at least it appears, has a coach who should be there a little while in Paul Chryst. Both Randy Edsall, year two, and Chryst, year one, have a chance to capitalize on the woes of Bill O'Brien.
For Chryst, that means getting the state of Pennsylvania hammered down tight. He can offer kids a bowl trip, a shot at an ACC title and a possible BCS Bowl during their time in school. For Edsall, it means much of the same; merely exchange Pennsylvania for the DC-Metro, Maryland, Southeastern Pennsylvania and New Jersey area.
Both Chryst and Edsall have to come out shooting. While O'Brien has a facilities edge on Pitt and an atmosphere edge on both schools, he only boasts playing time as his next big selling point to recruits. Chryst and Edsall can talk wins, competing for conference titles and the dream of getting to a BCS Bowl.
The plain and simple fact is, Penn State can't sign all the kids. They have to stay at 65 scholarships and that is crippling. They can't corral Pennsylvania and poach kids from DC, Maryland and New Jersey. They just don't have the ability to ink them all. That means Pitt and Maryland should be in those high schools building relationships. They should be in those high schools inking kids to establish a new order. Inking kids to make sure that when Penn State gets back to full strength, they have their foot in the door and a relationship with the coaches, younger players and the like.
If you're Pitt or Maryland, your time is now. If you cannot make up ground, make inroads and shorten the gap that exists between your program and Penn State now, then give up hope because it is not happening. Randy Edsall, with the help of Mike Locksley and Paul Chryst, have to get their hands on the kids that don't want to or cannot go to Penn State and the impact has to be more than just a couple of recruiting wins. The impact has to be lasting, if the coaches and programs want to elevate where they stand.