Penn State's brief annual series with Nebraska was destined for greatness, but starting in 2014, the Nittany Lions will have to hope that incoming Big Ten rivals will be able to resurrect old regional rivalries.
When Nebraska joined the Big Ten in 2011, the conference split into two divisions and set up protected crossover matchups as part of the new conference schedule. Penn State and Nebraska, the two Big Ten members farthest apart from each other, actually made for one of the more high-profile conference matchups in the new Big Ten.
Though both games played so far have been competitive, Nebraska has taken the 2-0 edge in Big Ten play and will look to make it 3-0 when the Cornhuskers travel to State College this fall.
Starting in 2014, the Big Ten will reshuffle its divisions, renaming them in the process. Penn State will be joined by new members Rutgers and Maryland along with Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana.
As a result of the new division lineup and total conference membership, the Big Ten will expand its conference schedule to nine games and remove all but one protected crossover (Indiana and Purdue will be the conference's only protected crossover). That means no more annual matchups between Penn State and Nebraska in regular-season play.
The new division alignment should make for attractive annual games for Penn State with Ohio State and Michigan and the revival of the Land Grant Trophy series with Michigan State. While these matchups will add to Penn State's schedule every year, the loss of Nebraska will have to be made up with the additions of Rutgers and Maryland.
Getting back to historical rivalries should be welcomed by Penn State, a program that essentially cut ties with a number of traditional rivals when it joined the Big Ten in 1993. How much you could consider these to be rivalries is up for debate, of course.
Penn State has dominated the individual series with Rutgers (22-2) and Maryland (35-1-1). Sharing the same basic recruiting grounds, though, with the same conference pitch should lead to some fascinating, if not heated, recruiting rivalries in the future. With Penn State still due to serve two more seasons of sanctions once Maryland and Rutgers join the Big Ten, the tension could escalate in a hurry on the recruiting trails.
Will Rutgers or Maryland be able to build up their programs to a point where they can legitimately make a run at Penn State in the Big Ten East pecking order? Both programs have potential but also have a lot of work to do. Rutgers has developed some good, quality talent in recent years and is farther along than the Terps. Maryland essentially is working from the ground up in many respects. Neither would be considered on par with Nebraska.
So how do fans view the new conference lineup as it relates to Penn State? Does losing Nebraska but gaining annual games against Michigan, Rutgers and Maryland make up for the loss of the Huskers and Wisconsin?