Hello, Penn State fans!
I grew up in Pennsylvania. I remember watching the 1983 Sugar Bowl when Penn State won its first of two national championships. Later on, I went to and graduated from the school I grew up watching.
Since winning their championships, Penn State joined the Big Ten Conference. It might have seemed out of place for the Nittany Lions to join a Midwestern conference, but I grew up in the days where the Chicago Cubs were in the NL East with the Phillies and Pirates. Still, Penn State borders Ohio, and besides, when Penn State applied for the Big East, it was rejected.
I still love the Big Ten for Penn State. Since I also graduated from Illinois and have family in Chicago, I feel close to the Midwest, as well as the East. That being said, part of me feels Penn State has lost its Eastern presence. Gone are the days of games with Pittsburgh and Syracuse on a regular basis.
They talk about the Backyard Brawl, but Penn State was Pitt's big rival before the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten. Pitt used to play Penn State in November almost every year, and The Backyard Brawl was played in September or October back then. I remember watching Penn State and Pitt play on Thanksgiving in 1991, as we, the Nittany Lions, were Pitt's big rivals long before West Virginia.
With the Big Ten having 11 teams after Penn State was accepted, of course, there was speculation of a 12th team. I always wanted it to be an Eastern team, either Pittsburgh or Syracuse. For those of you who think Joe Paterno was, or is against Pittsburgh joining the Big Ten, he actually mentioned them as a team he would be interested in adding in 2009.
Instead, the Big Ten took the farthest team away from Penn State, and the team that refused to share the national championship in 1995, like the University of Miami and Washington did previously.
The precedence was that if two teams both finished undefeated that the AP and coaches would split the vote. But that year, rather than share the trophy, the writers and coaches gave Nebraska the sole national championship.
They only gave them the trophy because of sympathy for Tom Osborne not having a national championship. But if Osborne wasn't so senseless, he would have kicked the extra point against Miami and he would already have had a national championship.
I felt the last invite for Nebraska was a slap at the East Coast and at Penn State. The Big Ten was ok with Penn State actually bringing an Eastern presence to the Big Ten but doesn't care if Penn State has any rivals from the East. It's like being invited to an exclusive party but none of your friends are.
Even worse, there was talk of sending Penn State to the "western" division of the Big Ten with Nebraska and Iowa so Penn State wouldn't be in the same division as Michigan or Ohio State. Luckily, the Big Ten let Penn State in the same division as Ohio State.
Still, it's not the same. We can say Ohio State is Penn State's rival, but no one at Ohio State will ever consider the Nittany Lions their No. 1 rival. The Nittany Lions faithful want someone they know will be their last game every season. If you are saying Nebraska, forget about it. Iowa will be Nebraska's rival.
So, of course with all of the latest conference expansion and realignment, I'm hopeful the Big Ten will invite at least one Eastern team, either Pitt or Syracuse. Unfortunately, it looks like the ACC has struck first there.
Sure, I'm biased and want Penn State to have a rival, but I don't know why the Big Ten wouldn't want more of a presence in the East Coast. Forget Penn State, wouldn't Ohio State and Michigan (historically the two strongest programs in the Big Ten) rather invite Pitt or Syracuse, which are within driving distance, than schools west of the Mississippi that require flight. In addition, if the Big East folds, there might be a better chance that Notre Dame would join the Big Ten.
If Syracuse and Pitt join the ACC and the Big Ten gets Notre Dame, I would be happy with that. Penn State and Notre Dame played many November games in the 80's, as the rivalry was big when Raghib Ismail played for Notre Dame. Since Indiana and Purdue are bitter rivals, maybe Notre Dame becomes our rival.
If Pittsburgh and Syracuse join the ACC and Notre Dame doesn't join, my next choice is Maryland. They border Penn State, and Penn State and Maryland also played frequently (although Penn State pretty much has dominated the Terrapins).
That would bring Penn State to the DC market. However, if the ACC gains Pitt and Syracuse, there would likely be less of a chance of Maryland wanting to leave the ACC.
After that, the only other Eastern rivals of Big Ten academic caliber would seem to be UConn and Rutgers. UConn and Penn State to my knowledge have never played in football, but it would be huge to get their men's (and women's) basketball teams in the Big Ten. I would also assume UConn would probably prefer the ACC, though.
I have never considered Rutgers a rival of Penn State, as Penn State is 24-2 against Rutgers. Furthermore, their basketball program is awful. You can argue New York and New Jersey, but if Rutgers represents New Jersey, why is it called Rutgers? I guess Rutgers would be better than another school west of the river, but I'm not looking forward to Rutgers as a rival.
If the Big Ten expands west instead of east again, please be Missouri and/or Kansas. Iowa State and Kansas State would be the absolute worst choices of anyone being talked about.
If you're the second best school in a tiny state (less than four million people in Iowa and Kansas), you're not a good school. If Iowa State and Kansas State are the best the Big Ten can do, the Big Ten is better off not expanding. Iowa State and Kansas State would be extra mouths to feed.
So Big Ten, Penn State is lonely. Make us feel more at home. I'm sick of being the sore thumb of the Big Ten. Bring another Eastern school to the Big Ten!