STATE COLLEGE – Football is inching closer to starting. The Big Ten Conference on Wednesday announced a 10-game, league-only schedule for its 14 programs. Penn State hosts Northwestern on Sept. 5 in the Nittany Lions’ season opener.
Any plans for the 2020 season are still contingent on the coronavirus. Penn State is scheduled to open fall camp on Friday.
“What went into the decision was to afford us the best possible opportunity to be as flexible as we possibly can,” Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren said on Wednesday. “That was one of the reasons why we decided to go to a 10-game-only schedule, a Big Ten-only conference schedule was that it is an opportunity for us to remain as flexible as we possibly can.”
Four weeks have been added to the end of the league's schedule to allow for flexibility.
The Nittany Lions have back-to-back road games against Indiana (Sept. 12) and Michigan (Sept. 19) before closing out September at home against Michigan State on the 26.
Penn State will visit Rutgers on Oct. 3 before taking the first of two bye weeks on Oct. 10. The Nittany Lions resume October play with home games against Maryland (Oct. 17) and Iowa (Oct. 24). Penn State visits Nebraska on Oct. 31.
Penn State hosts Ohio State on Nov. 7 and closes out the regular season at Illinois on Nov. 21. The Nittany Lions’ second bye week falls on Nov. 14.
The Big Ten championship game is tentatively scheduled for Dec. 5 but could be pushed back to Dec. 19 if need be.
Included in the Big Ten’s recent schedule announcement are league-wide protocols for COVID-19. The league announced all of its sports teams will be required to test for COVID-19 each week, while athletes in high-contact sports will test twice a week. All tests will be administered by a third-party laboratory.
“I think when you look back at the testing protocol, those are minimum,” said Howard Griffith, an analyst for the Big Ten Network. “What’s exciting about that is they’re going to continue to move forward to try to obtain rapid testing. They’re going to have their own lab that’s going to be able to make sure that those tests are taken care of… From a parent’s standpoint, you feel really good when you know there’s going to be a third party that’s going to be handling those things.”
The Big Ten in early July became the first of the Power Five conferences to modify its league schedule to include just conference games. For Penn State, the decision jettisoned Kent State, Virginia Tech and San Jose State from the Nittany Lions’ list of opponents.
Penn State this year gained Illinois as a new opponent.
“In making this announcement, the Conference acknowledges that there is much work to be done on our campuses, in our communities and across the country to gain control of a virus that continues to spread at an alarming rate,” the conference said in a statement. “While the Conference remains hopeful for a September 2020 start in all fall sports, including football, issuing a schedule does not guarantee that competition will occur.”
While the Big Ten and Penn State are poised to move ahead with a 2020 fall football season, it’s still unclear as to how Penn State will handle admitting fans into Beaver Stadium. The school announced in an email on Wednesday that season ticket holders should expect to receive an email on Thursday morning “regarding the 2020 football season.”
Last month, Penn State athletic director Sandy Barbour did hint as to what she believed regarding the outlook for crowd size at Beaver Stadium in 2020.
“If we’re being honest, I don’t believe that’s in the books,” Barbour said of a full-house scenario. “I don’t think that’s in the cards for us this season. So, again, the different scenarios we’re looking at would be to try to accommodate as many of our season-ticket holders as we possibly can.”