For Penn State, working out a nonconference schedule can be difficult.

Four years ago, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany wanted conference teams to schedule at least one nonconference game against a Power 5 opponent and the Nittany Lions have complied. They will meet Virginia Tech (ACC) in 2020 and 2025, Auburn (SEC) in 2021 and 2022, and West Virginia (Big 12) in 2023 and 2024.

Delany also asked in 2015 that his teams not schedule Football Championship Subdivision (Division I-AA) teams. He amended that statement two years later, saying it would be all right as long as those games were occurred in the same year as when a Big Ten team had to play five conference contests on the road.

For Penn State, that means odd-numbered years. And this year, you had Idaho.

Actually, the Nittany Lions announced the 2019 game against the Vandals in August 2015, when Idaho still was in the Football Bowl Subdivision (Division I-A). Eight months later, however, the Idaho athletic administration said the program would drop to FCS starting in the 2018 season.

The Vandals came to Beaver Stadium last Saturday and lost 79-7. They happily left Happy Valley with a reported $1.4 million, the guarantee promised by Penn State when Idaho was in FBS.

But for a team and a conference that is dying to get back into the College Football Playoff, a tournament that a Big Ten team has not been a part of since 2016, scheduling FCS teams does not help a team’s strength of schedule, no matter how difficult games within the league are.

Remember 2016? Washington got in to the CFP at No. 4 with one loss, ahead of two-loss Penn State, the No. 5 team, while defeating Portland State of the FCS. Howls of protest went up but the final vote stood.

When the latest CFP Final Four came out last season, with nary a Big Ten team but two squads from the SEC, Penn State vice president of athletics Sandy Barbour called for a more level playing field for each of the Power 5 conferences, suggesting that teams can play either their eight or nine conference games as long as their total number of Power 5 games total 10.

For local fans, at least Penn State’s next FCS opponents are familiar teams – Villanova in 2021 and 2025, Delaware in 2023 and 2027. Here’s hoping the Wildcats and Blue Hens give the Lions a better game than Idaho did.

Penn State had plenty of reason to celebrate in its rout of Idaho last Saturday.
Barry Reeger / AP
Penn State had plenty of reason to celebrate in its rout of Idaho last Saturday.

Inside the Numbers

Certainly the 79-7 final score was not a pretty sight in the next day’s college football agate. And head coach James Franklin and his team were targets on social media of unhappy fans who thought that the Nittany Lions did little to keep the score down.

The numbers: The Lions scored 21 points in the fourth quarter. One touchdown came from one of their four first-string backs, and the other two from were the second-team quarterback throwing to the fourth-team tight end, and from the fifth-team running back. They gained 118 total yards, 89 on the ground, and Idaho’s 64 total yards was its most in any quarter.

Franklin did talk about the late scoring at his Tuesday media teleconference.

“I know we had some discussions as a staff,” he said. “You look at the score and no one, I would say, necessarily likes to see that in college football. But I will tell you I also believe very strongly that those guys deserve the ability to get in the game and play. They should be able to go in and play, and that’s what they were able to do.”