Penn State Football: Is a Grudge Match Against Vanderbilt a Real Possibility?

Tim TolleyContributor IMarch 12, 2014

Vanderbilt head football coach James Franklin answers questions during the opening of the school's new multipurpose facility field house Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2013, in Nashville, Tenn. The $31 million addition will give the football team a place to work out during bad weather and will give the track team a place to hold indoor meets. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)
Mark Humphrey/Associated Press

When James Franklin left Vanderbilt to become the head coach at Penn State, it's fair to say there was animosity from the Commodore fanbase.

There was a feeling of betrayal not unlike the one Penn State felt when Bill O'Brien left the college game for the NFL.

Franklin then went on to flip five committed recruits from Vanderbilt to Penn State which, to put it mildly, stoked those flames. Creative Commodore fans dubbed their former coach things like "Poach Franklin" as well as some less savory nicknames.

Things have since calmed down in Nashville as Vandy hired Derek Mason away from Stanford to be their new head coach. He not only finished with a top-50 class but was able to land a commitment from Nifae Lealao, who was previously committed to Stanford.

Just as Franklin has had to answer questions about O'Brien, Mason has been faced with the ghost of Franklin and was asked about a matchup featuring Franklin's new and old teams. 

Mason did not back down or pull any punches when he all but challenged the Nittany Lions.

New @VandyFootball coach, Derek Mason's message to Penn State “If James Franklin wants to play, we will play any time and place, anywhere.”

— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) February 24, 2014

Perhaps it was an attempt to win over some fans, or maybe Mason understands the notoriety and recruiting value a game against Penn State could bring. Regardless, the seed was planted, and it was only a matter of time until the idea would be presented to "Poach Franklin" himself.

Early last week, Franklin appeared on the "Outkick the Coverage" podcast and was asked about the comments from Mason.

A game in the future if it makes sense, we’d be open to talking about. Especially since it’s anytime, any place, anywhere. So we'll look at bringing them to Happy Valley and playing here and get into some discussions, possibly.

Wisely, the coach used the "any place, anywhere" card to his advantage, but in reality, a game between Vanderbilt and Penn State would likely fall at a neutral locationmaybe Cincinnati or Washington D.C.

The "where" would actually be the easy part of the equation. Figuring out an ideal time for both teams could prove more difficult.

Of course, one or both teams could drop a sub-par game in favor of a potential rivalry.

2015 September Schedules
Penn St.Vandy
September 5@ Temple@ Middle Tenn
September 12BuffaloWestern Kentucky
September 19RutgersOPEN
September 26San Diego StateOPEN

If both sides got on the ball, a matchup in 2015 is not out of the question. If Penn State was willing to drop San Diego State or both teams dropped someone from the first two weeks of their out-of-conference schedule, it could result in a contest while the bad blood is still fresh.

2016 September Schedules
Penn St.Vandy
September 3Kent StateOPEN
September 10@ PittMiddle Tennessee
September 17Temple@ Georgia Tech
September 24OPEN@ Western Kentucky

More likely, though, would be a game between the two in 2016 to kick off the season. The Nittany Lions have a game scheduled with Kent State that day while Vanderbilt has no game on the schedule.

Opening week is a prime slot and Franklin coaching against the school that made him famous would be good television.

The other possibility is that both coaches are blowing smoke and have no interest in a game against each other.

Meanwhile, the ball is in the proverbial court of the athletic departments. The one thing that's for sure is that fans from both sides would travel to see a marquee matchup like this between the Big Ten and the SEC.

Hopefully they'll get the chance.