Penn State football and men’s hockey’s upcoming seasons are slated to be conference-only play this year, and men’s basketball is still up in the air.
While Big Ten games tend to be a little more exciting and intense based on previously established rivalries, it can be a nice change of pace to play against an unfamiliar foe.
Here is a list of three nonconference teams I’d like to see football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey play against, plus one more obscure opponent that would be a longshot, yet a lot of fun for both teams involved.
Last meeting: 1997, 38-15 PSU
Penn State’s record: 3-2
Texas hasn’t been “back” for several years, despite the program’s insistence that it is. Both the Longhorns and Nittany Lions are two of the most historic programs in all of college football, and, despite Texas having a weak couple of seasons (including back-to-back losses to Maryland in 2017 and 2018), a matchup between these two would be a lot of fun.
It’s not often Penn State sees the Big 12 anyway. The Nittany Lions’ last meeting with the conference was a 24-17 win over Texas A&M in the Alamo Bowl when it was still in the Big 12.
Last meeting: 2011, 27-11 Alabama
Penn State’s record: 5-10
Everyone wants ‘Bama.
Sure, the Crimson Tide took both games in the 2010 and 2011 home-and-home by a sizable margin, but Penn State is on another level now compared to when the teams met last decade.
It feels like, especially this season, the Big Ten is on the brink of competing with the SEC as the conference down south gets weaker.
The Nittany Lions could have a legitimate shot at running with Nick Saban’s dynasty squad, especially since James Franklin is (so far) smart enough to keep himself out of the press box to call games.
Last meeting: 1995, 38-20 PSU
Penn State’s record: 3-1
The Ducks would be a great matchup for Penn State.
This would actually be the most feasible opponent listed, too. The Ducks were supposed to open this season against Ohio State before the coronavirus hit, and they’ve seen Wisconsin and Michigan State the previous two years in the Rose Bowl.
Obviously a Rose Bowl meeting would be the most likely path, but this would be a beneficial noncon game for both teams if they could get it scheduled.
Former Nittany Lion and Duck Juwan Johnson would be especially interested in this game after he transferred from Penn State after the 2018 season, but he has lots of love for both programs.
North Dakota State
Last meeting: N/A
Yeah, this one probably won’t happen, but it’d be cool if it did.
North Dakota State has been dominant in the FCS, winning eight of the last nine national titles.
It might be time for the Bison to move up to the FBS in the coming years, and they’ve already taken down some Power Five opponents like No. 13 Iowa in 2016 and Iowa State in 2014.
It’d be interesting to see how they’d do against a top-10 team like Penn State.
MORE FOOTBALL COVERAGE
Week 7 of the 2020 college football season is here, and it provides some of the most exciting matchups of the year so far.
Last meeting: 1999, 70-53 PSU
Penn State’s record: 1-7
Penn State hasn’t met with this in-state foe in over two decades, but maybe it was satisfied with its win against a historically good basketball school.
The Wildcats have won two out of the last four national titles, but with the Nittany Lions’ impressive season last year, who knows how they’d fair against Villanova?
Pat Chambers also got his start in the Philadelphia area and recruits well on the east side of Pennsylvania, so maybe he could shift the balance of power with the Nittany Lions’ program on the rise.
This game could easily be scheduled for a date at the Wells Fargo Center to really pack in the crowd (once the coronavirus is eradicated, of course).
Last meeting: 2017, 85-54 PSU
Penn State’s record: 38-38
While the teams’ last meeting was only a handful of seasons ago, it’s time to bring this matchup back.
Pitt is actually Penn State’s second-most played team of all time behind West Virginia, and it’s what the people want to see.
The Nittany Lions have Pitt’s number on the football field, but the series between the two is dead even on the court.
Since Penn State and Pitt won’t be meeting on the field anytime soon, this would be a great way to satiate fans’ desires for the schools to go at it.
And, like Villanova, this series could be held at a larger arena in Pittsburgh.
Last meeting: 2002, 85-55 UNC (season opener)
Penn State’s record: 1-4 UNC
I was honestly surprised to see Penn State had only played the Tar Heels five times in its existence.
UNC is one of the most historical teams in all of college basketball, and with UNC trending downward while Penn State is trending up, this one could actually be a good game.
Penn State’s only win came in clutch fashion in 2001 as the Nittany Lions knocked off the Tar Heels 82-74 to bounce them out of the round of 32.
Last meeting: N/A
Not much to say about this one other than a trip to Hawaii.
MORE BASKETBALL COVERAGE
Former Penn State forward Mike Watkins has officially signed a professional basketball contr…
Last meeting: 2013, 4-3 PSU
Penn State’s record: 2-0 PSU
Alabama-Huntsville temporarily lost its program in May due to cuts made by its athletic department, but it was revived after raising over $500,000 through a GoFundMe.
Penn State defeated the Chargers in the Nittany Lions’ inaugural season as a Division I team, but the teams haven’t seen each other since UAH was still the NCAA’s southernmost team — a title now held by Arizona State.
The Chargers might not have too many more years as a team, so Penn State should at least schedule them for the novelty and bring on 'Bama once again.
Last meeting: N/A
Only a five-hour drive separating the two schools, it’s surprising these teams haven’t met before.
The Bobcats have appeared in the national championship game twice in the last seven seasons, and while they dropped both games, they’re still a relatively young Division I program that would match up well against the Nittany Lions.
Penn State doesn’t play the ECAC nearly as much as it should, and this would be a great opportunity.
I’m also sure The Roar Zone would travel to Connecticut well for this battle of cat-themed mascots.
Long Island University
Last meeting: N/A
This doesn’t really count because the program hasn’t even played a single game yet, but Penn State needs to schedule this game as soon as possible for the future.
The team intends to start this upcoming season, and no one really knows how the program will be right off the bat.
But they’re the Sharks, and their jerseys are light blue and gold.
That’s enough to pique my interest.
Last meeting: 2014, 3-2 BC
Penn State’s record: 0-2
Boston University: N/A
This might just be sacrilegious, but how fun would it be if Penn State got inserted into the Beanpot, one of college hockey's most famous tournaments?
All the teams in the tournament would be great, established competition for the Nittany Lions.
They’ve only played Boston College out of the four teams, but the program was still young and developing at the time.
Plus, if there’s anything Penn State fans and Boston sports fans have in common, it’s their cult-like following for their favorite teams.
They especially love their hockey up north, so if one of the teams ever drops out, Penn State should think about making a phone call.
MORE HOCKEY COVERAGE