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Penn State Football: 2014 Big Ten Schedule Means Slim Pickings to Fill Vacancy

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Penn State Football: 2014 Big Ten Schedule Means Slim Pickings to Fill Vacancy
Evan Habeeb-USA TODAY Sports

Penn State still has one schedule hole to plug in 2014 and the new Big Ten schedule for next year may not allow for much to work with.

Penn State will open the 2014 season at Rutgers, a new division and conference rival. This will be the debut game in the conference for Rutgers and will be under the spotlight as the only Big Ten game scheduled that week.

It will also be the first time Penn State has played on the Rutgers campus since 1955. Since then, Penn State has been the road team in six games but all were played in the old Giants Stadium. The road game at Rutgers will be Penn State's third of the season, with the first two games of the year being played at home in Beaver Stadium against Temple and Akron.

After the road conference tilt, Penn State returns home for the next two weeks against Massachusetts and then another Big Ten game, against Northwestern.

After five straight games to open the season, Penn State will get their first open date before traveling to Ann Arbor, Michigan to face the Michigan Wolverines. As the schedule currently is lined up, Penn State has an open week before and after their game at Michigan.

It is likely Penn State will attempt to fill one of those two weeks with an opponent to round out a 12-game schedule. After the second open week on the schedule, Penn State hosts Ohio State. The third and final open date on Penn State's schedule comes in the middle of November before ending the year with two games, at Illinois and home against Michigan State.

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So what are Penn State's scheduling options for finding a 12th opponent, and what schools will be available at those points in the season to play a 12th game? This is where things begin to get sticky, as this is typically the time of year when conference schedules are in full bloom and non-conference match-ups are generally reserved for those rivalry games.

Penn State does not have any such rivalry game to count on here so what Penn State can do might be limiting in appeal to most fans.

Fortunately, there is time to sort through this situation. Other conferences still have not set their 2014 conference schedules in stone yet, so Penn State has time to negotiate a game (or a home-and-home) with some attractive options from conferences such as the ACC, Pac 12, Big 12 or SEC.

Getting a Pac 12 program to fly east in the middle of the season may be far-fetched, which leaves a game against an ACC opponent the most likely scenario if considering only options from the top conferences. Syracuse? Boston College? Virginia?

Penn State and Virginia had a game scheduled originally for the 2013 season but agreed to postpone that meeting to another date, if not cancel it altogether. The problem here is that Virginia already has a full 2014 non-conference slate lined up.

Another solution could be to revisit the idea of playing Central Florida in Ireland in 2014. While the most conventional thought had the two schools playing across the Atlantic Ocean to start an upcoming season, there could be a way to tack it on to the end of the regular season schedule, if approved by the Big Ten, American and NCAA.

Penn State will be ineligible for postseason play, and thus will not be eligible to play in the Big Ten championship game. Central Florida will not have a conference championship game scenario as the American will not have a championship game in 2014.

This would hypothetically allow each team to schedule a game for what is typically championship weekend in college football. But how many fans will pack their bags to head to Ireland in late November or early December?

Penn State will eventually figure out who their 12th opponent in 2014 will be. The school already has seven home games lined up so the flexibility is out there for a potential neutral site or road game if it really comes down to crunch time, but expect Penn State to bring in a team for an eighth home game if possible. The options may not be the most appealing under those situations, but it makes the most sense.

And cents.

Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and managing editor of Nittany Lions Den. Follow McGuire on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.

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