Penn State Football

Penn State Football: Nittany Lions should explore series with Florida State

Thank goodness for bye weeks.

They offer seven days to rejuvenate, recharge, reflect and reconsider aspects of a football program.

Instead of dissecting Matt McGloin’s turnaround and Gerald Hodges’ and Michael Mauti’s assertive play, let’s play schedule-maker.

Coach Bill O’Brien keeps dangling the possibility of playing a bowl-like game. Unless you consider next year’s trip to New Jersey swampland to play Syracuse a big game, Penn State’s next two non-conference schedules lack the glitz O’Brien wants and needs.

Here’s a way to excite recruits and current players: Arrange a home-and-home series with Florida State.

The Atlantic Coast Conference decided last week to nix a nine-game league schedule. The move is causing panic in athletic offices from Syracuse to Coral Gables, Fla.

Scheduling football games on short notice is like receiving pit-stop treatment at the local mechanic. It typically doesn’t happen.

Florida State’s scheduling situation is dire. The Seminoles have open dates next Sept. 7 and 14, and the Reno Gazette-Journal reported last month that Nevada wants to cancel next year’s trip to Tallahassee. The Wolfpack visit Florida State on Sept. 21, 2013.

Nevada’s decision to lower its degree-of-difficult next year leaves three possible dates for the Nittany Lions to face the Seminoles. After opening at Syracuse, Penn State plays host to Eastern Michigan, Virginia and Kent State from Sept. 7-21. The Virginia game, which is Sept. 14, concludes a home-and-home with the Cavaliers.

Florida State might be chasing a seventh home game next season, which means 2014 must be in play for this to work. The Seminoles end the 2013 regular season at Florida.

Sacrificing a 2013 home game comes with a desirable payoff for Penn State. Florida State currently has three open dates to begin 2014, with the ones on Sept. 6 and 20 aligning with Penn State’s home games against Akron and UMass. The Seminoles face Florida in 2014 at home.

To make a series with Florida State work, Penn State must boot teams from its schedules, an expensive endeavor, especially considering the school would be losing an attractive seventh home game in 2013. The abundance of ACC teams searching for their fourth non-conference games in 2013 and ’14 could offer landing spots for Mid-American Conference schools Penn State must replace to make a Florida State series work.

Perhaps the neutral site game against Syracuse helps offset part of the 2013 financial loss by playing six home games instead of seven. A 2014 home game against Florida State virtually guarantees a 107,000-fan crowd. Penn State hasn’t sold more than 98,762 tickets for a game this season, and nobody will clog phone lines or websites to order Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Akron or UMass tickets.

It’s hard envisioning Florida State athletic director Randy Spetman not taking calls from Penn State acting athletic director Dave Joyner seriously. In the past six years, the Seminoles have played non-conference games against Florida, Oklahoma, Alabama, BYU, South Florida and Colorado. The Seminoles were scheduled to play West Virginia this season, but the Mountaineers terminated the contract because of their move to the Big 12.

Brutal schedules will help national title contenders beginning in 2014 when the NCAA adopts a four-team playoff. Florida State can impress a committee by defeating Penn State and Florida and running what could be a flat ACC table.

After years of carrying an entire athletic department, Penn State’s football program must act selfishly when scheduling.

There are players to retain and recruits to lure. The 2013 and ‘14 non-conference schedules are ugly, with a 2014 trip to Rutgers representing the only true road game. Players looking to appear in a marquee game before October can’t be enthused about what Tim Curley constructed.

Throw Florida State into the mix, and Penn State becomes a more attractive option for young players. The Seminoles are a potential preseason top-10 team the next two years. Facing Florida State should help Penn State raise its southern recruiting profile. The Nittany Lions’ 2013 recruiting class includes defensive backs from the Florida Panhandle and Georgia. Many recruiting analysts expect Penn State to make southern players staples of future recruiting classes.

Recruits also watch plenty of television, and a Penn State-Florida State game would create a buzz among ESPN executives.

O’Brien said this past spring he’s seeking a marquee game. He floated the possibility of a Hawaii trip shortly after this past summer’s NCAA sanctions announcement. He mentioned playing a bowl-like game as recently as his radio show two weeks ago.

The ACC’s announcement last week might have accelerated the process.

Hope O’Brien’s superiors are paying attention.