Penn State is currently working on organizing a game to be played in Ireland, according to head coach Bill O'Brien.
Entering year two of a postseason ban by the NCAA, Penn State has been looking in to rearranging future football schedules in order to give players (and recruits) a destination game to look forward to. There had previously been talk that scheduling an extra game against Hawaii would be a possibility but the idea of an overseas game seems to have gained at least a little bit of momentum.
On Saturday Bob Flounders of The Patriot News reported O'Brien had confirmed Penn State was investigating the possibility of playing in Ireland for one game.
"We are definitely looking into playing in Ireland, no question about it,'' O'Brien said to The Patriot News. "We're working on an opponent and we're working with the Big Ten on that. So that's something that's definitely in the works.''
This is where the challenge begins, as previously explained in November. The first challenge, of course, would be to find an opponent that would likely be willing to give up a home game in order to play Penn State across the Atlantic Ocean. It is not likely Penn State would offer up a home game from their schedule, so the challenge will be finding an opponent who might be willing to play a signature game on a neutral field at the expense of a potential home game.
Penn State's 2013 schedule has already been confirmed, with Central Florida replacing Virginia on the schedule on September 14 at Beaver Stadium. The season kicks off in the Meadowlands against Syracuse and includes two more home games against Eastern Michigan and Kent State. Do not expect any trips to Ireland to be made in 2013. The door for 2014 appears to be the most likely.
Penn State is currently scheduled for three home games in 2014 with dates set for Temple, Akron and UMass. Penn State is also in the process of deciding on a return date to play Central Florida in Orlando. That return game could be played in 2014 or 2015. If the Central Florida road game is scheduled in 2014 it would be unlikely Penn State voluntarily gives up another home game from the non-conference schedule.
Penn State currently has just one non-conference opponent lined up for 2016 through 2021, so there is room to work with in the longer term to work out a game in Ireland.
Another factor to keep in mind is Big Ten expansion possibly could lead to a nine-game conference schedule, which leaves just three non-conference games to work with. One more scheduling factor to remember is Penn State and Virginia are still hoping to reschedule their game originally scheduled in State College for the 2013 season.
So whom might Penn State hope to schedule an overseas game with? Officially, that is anybody's guess. There are some teams that would make sense to be considered though. The most likely options might include Army and Navy. Both service academies have played in Ireland before and have the independent schedule flexibility to work with in their favor. If a game is to be set up, a service academy makes the most sense in terms of ability to schedule.