With the news that Penn State will have both full scholarships and playoff rights returned to the program next season, the question now is can the Nittany Lions save the Big 10 Conference. While the Big 10 still remains one of the power conferences in college football, it has been losing ground over the past decade. Conferences such as the Pac 12, ACC, and Big 12 have all significantly improved in terms of talent and yearly recruiting. These three conferences have even begun to close the gap on the best conference in the land, the SEC. While the rest of college football is on the upswing, the Big 10 has been heading in the wrong direction.
After this past weekend the Ohio State Buckeyes and Michigan State Spartans have gone from favorites to compete in the college football playoff to long shots. The reason? The strength of schedule is the biggest concern especially with the quality of teams in the conference. While the Spartans at least played a national power like Oregon, Ohio State continues to schedule cupcake non conference games which makes a loss even more devastating. Now with both schools having one loss apiece it now looks like both teams will now have to run the table if they want any shot at making the playoff.
How does Penn State help the fledgeling Big 10? Despite the limitations set by the NCAA the Nittany Lions have been able to still have very good recruiting classes and more importantly continue to win. Already off to a 2-0 start this season if Penn State can return to being a consistent top 25 program over the next few seasons they could bring back some much-needed respect to the Big 10.
Let’s face it, outside of Michigan State and Ohio State everybody else in the conference has just been average at best. Rutgers could be a dark horse program that may eventually boost the conference, but right now as a whole especially is average at best. With the Michigan Wolverines being a disaster while Wisconsin and Nebraska have stalled over the past few seasons.
One thing that Penn State does over it’s fellow conference opponents is some very good young quarterbacks coming into the program through recruiting including one of the best young signal callers in the country Christian Hackenberg. Despite Hackenberg getting off to a slow start this season, you can expect to hear his name associated next with the NFL Draft.
Penn State has weathered the storm admirably and has continued to build a very good program despite their limitations in recruiting. Now with their full scholarships all back it could be time for Penn State to go from surviving to thriving.