Even though the 2020 college football season could still be canceled, Penn State now has a 10-game schedule to play if the coronavirus allows, with its opener set for Sept. 5 at Beaver Stadium against Northwestern.
In releasing its schedule Wednesday, the Big Ten showed some ingenuity in the construction of the plan, allowing its 14 teams to take 16 weeks to complete the season. There are two bye weeks built into the schedule, and then four more weeks – Nov. 28 and Dec. 5, 12, and 19 – with the last date reserved for the conference championship game. Penn State’s bye weeks are Oct. 10 and Nov. 14.
If needed, the conference would have the ability to move the start of the season back to Sept. 12, 19, or 26 while allowing early games to be moved to a later part of the schedule. The Big Ten opener is set for Thursday, Sept. 3, when preseason favorite Ohio State travels to Illinois.
The Nittany Lions’ schedule was announced about 12 hours after a report surfaced that All-American linebacker Micah Parsons will opt out of the current season and enter the 2021 NFL draft. Most mock drafts already have him as a first-round selection following a season in which he led the Lions in tackles, capped by a 14-tackle performance in the Cotton Bowl.
The football program still has not confirmed the story, first reported Tuesday night by Yahoo Sports and confirmed by Lions247.
The Big Ten also announced that training camps will start Friday. However, Rutgers players are scheduled to remain in isolation through Saturday after multiple positive cases of COVID-19, a number that has reached 28, according to NJ Advance Media. Northwestern paused its workouts after a positive test this week.
“Issuing a schedule does not guarantee competition this fall will occur in the Big Ten Conference,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren told Yahoo Sports. “We felt collectively that this was the next logical and methodical step forward in our process to be able to, at least, put some planning in place for our fall sports season.”
Following their opener, the Lions take to the road for games at Indiana and Michigan, followed by a Sept. 26 home game with Michigan State and an Oct. 3 trip to Rutgers.
After an open date, Penn State plays for four consecutive weeks – home games against Maryland (Oct. 17), Iowa (Oct. 24), and Ohio State (Nov. 7), with an Oct. 31 road game at Nebraska. The regular season ends Nov. 21 at Illinois.
The Big Ten had announced July 9 that its teams would play a nine-game conference-only schedule but decided to add a 10th game. Illinois is that 10th game, and fifth road game, for Penn State.
The conference also disclosed protocols for once the football season begins, utilizing a third-party testing laboratory in a centralized location with the coordination of the league office. Football would require players to be tested a minimum of twice weekly, with testing for players, coaches, and staff required within three days of competition.
Also Wednesday, a group called College Athlete Unity, saying it was representing more than 1,000 Big Ten players, published a list of concerns in the Players Tribune saying it was “deeply disappointed with the lack of leadership demonstrated by the NCAA with respect to player safety” during the pandemic.
Some of the items relating to testing protocols were covered in Wednesday’s announcement by the Big Ten.