It will take until 2017, but the Big Ten finally is getting things right with the Penn State and Maryland rivalry.
On Thursday, the league announced its conference scheduling for the 2016 and 2017 seasons, the first to feature nine-game league slates. And, finally, the Nittany Lions and Terps will play each other when they should — to end the regular season on Thanksgiving weekend.
The Big Ten could have made this happen as soon as next year, the first with Maryland and Rutgers in the league.
Instead, Penn State was matched in the regular-season finale with Michigan State, its season-ending opponent every year from 1993 through 2010. It was a familiar and maybe even comfortable choice — just not the right one.
That’s because there never was a true rivalry feel to that game, despite playing for the Land Grant Trophy (possibly the most aesthetically-awful trophy in college football).
So, when the Big Ten added Maryland and Rutgers and had a shot at a regional match-up that makes sense on a holiday weekend .¤.¤.
Officials simply went back to Penn State playing Michigan State in late November from 2014-16.
Fortunately, common sense wins out in 2017 when the Nittany Lions visit Maryland two days after Thanksgiving.
Think about it.
The two teams played each other every year for decades. And now they battle harder than ever for football recruits — especially with former Maryland high school coach and high-profile Lion assistant Larry Johnson leading the charge.
Just look at the current Penn State roster. There are 12 players from Maryland and Washington, D.C. — with eight from New Jersey and just three from Michigan. Out of 13 verbal commitments for its 2014 recruiting class, three are from Maryland with just one each from New Jersey and Michigan.
Plus, Pennsylvania and Maryland play each other every summer in the Big 33 high school football all-star game.
And York County native Randy Edsall is the head coach of the Terps, too.
But maybe the biggest reason for ending the regular season against one another is the fans. Though Thanksgiving weekend is tough for traveling, as long as Penn State and Maryland are playing each other, a large chunk of both fan bases can drive to the game and back in the same day, no matter where its played.
With familiarity, continued recruiting trends and some season-ending incentive, Penn State and Maryland can become one of the better rivalries in the league.
If the Big Ten just lets it happen.