Penn State Football: Now Is the Time for the Nittany Lions to Move to the ACC

Peter Emerick@@peteremerickSenior Writer IISeptember 12, 2012

STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 12:  The Penn State Nittany Lions take the field against the Nebraska Cornhuskers during the game on November 12, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)
Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Notre Dame's football program didn't make the switch to the ACC like the rest of its athletic programs, but it brought to mind a few collegiate athletic programs that do need a change of scenery.

At the top of that list are the Penn State Nittany Lions.

Back in 1990 when the Nittany Lions initially joined the Big Ten, Penn State was looking for a conference that would benefit it inside and outside of the classroom. The Big Ten provided Penn State with that luxury. Penn State continued to excel outside of the classroom in athletics, while also gaining the benefits of being a part of one of the greatest research and development conferences in America.

Penn State has been a leader among the schools in the Big Ten when it comes to academics and research, but the football program has been a different story.

The Nittany Lions haven't necessarily struggled in the Big Ten, going to bowl games in 18 of the 22 seasons since joining the Big Ten. But at the same time, they haven't dominated the Big Ten like they had planned.

That brings us to the present, a time when Penn State is in search of a new identity and a fresh start. What better way to create a new identity than to join the bandwagon of changing conferences—in this case, the ACC?

While there are negatives of abandoning the Big Ten, specifically when it comes to the television contracts and the research foundation for their academic institution, there are a plethora of positives, most notably the hope of a new start.

To start things off, moving to the ACC—which is pure speculation—would help Penn State rekindle some past rivalries with teams such as Miami and Pittsburgh. It also would help Penn State form new rivalries with talented teams such as Virginia Tech, Florida State and Clemson.

Trading rivalries with teams such as Ohio State, Michigan and Michigan State for rivalries with Pittsburgh, Miami, Virginia Tech and Florida State wouldn't be hard to sell because, in all honesty, Penn State would be making an upgrade.

Penn State also would benefit from joining the ACC in its other sports—most notably basketball, where it would be making a major upgrade. In a time when many are saying that football has grown too big at Penn State, joining the ACC would help shift the focus from football to other sports.

While you could argue that Penn State would lose valuable money from its partnership with the Big Ten Network, there's no doubt that Penn State would still be able to fill all 108,000 seats in Beaver Stadium, and that's really what is important when it comes to game-day revenue. 

From now until 2015, Penn State's most notable non-conference opponents are the Syracuse Orangemen and the Virginia Cavaliers—both ACC opponents.

Right now would be an appropriate time to walk away from the Big Ten, because the payout to non-conference opponents would be held to a minimum. Penn State wouldn't be losing any big-time revenue from prime-time, non-conference matchups because, frankly, it doesn't have any.

Moving to the ACC wouldn't be the popular choice for Penn State, but now is the right time to make those difficult and unpopular choices that will positively impact Penn State's future.

While speculating about a conference change for Penn State is entertaining to talk about, it's nothing more than that—pure speculation.

Just think of a Penn State football schedule that included games against Florida State, Pittsburgh, Virginia Tech, Georgia Tech, Clemson and the University of Miami—five marquee matchups and the inclusion of what would be an exciting rivalry with Pittsburgh.

The Nittany Lions just need to find another team to join the ACC with them, because joining alone would put the conference at 15 teams. Who knows, maybe they can talk Notre Dame into reconsidering the thought of playing football with them in the ACC.