HARRINGTON: Well, as we have seen on the FOS boards, there are a wide variety of opinions on this topic of who Penn State should line up. Personally, I would like to see an opponent that pays dividends to the Nittany Lions by way of exposure and enhanced recruiting. I think it would be valuable to extend the recruiting inroads to locations south and west by playing a Big XII, SEC or ACC team like Texas A&M, South Carolina or North Carolina.
BRENNAN: If recruiting is your primary concern, why not solidify things on the home front, first? Do it by lining up at least one game per season with a traditional Eastern opponent. Rotate between Pitt, West Virginia, Syracuse and Maryland (I'm guessing PSU can still muscle two-for-ones from Rutgers and Temple). All are within relatively easy driving distance of your typical Nittany Lion fan. What's more, all are within relatively easy driving distance for your typical PSU recruit's family.
HARRINGTON: Come on Mark, dwelling on the past doesn't help the future. What does playing Maryland and Pitt do for Penn State? Well, I guess if it pulled out wins in each it could have landed Derrick Williams and Justin King — oh, wait a minute... Penn State has huge alumni chapters all over the country — Southern California, Texas, Georgia, etc. Bring Penn State to the folks who get to see it once a decade and bolster recruiting in the process beyond Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Maryland and Virginia. Playing a team like Pitt again is a no-win situation for Penn State. I am sure Panther fans reading this will disagree since they see it as an opportunity to finally sell out yet another game at Heinz Field though.
BRENNAN: Come on Mark, yourself. PSU had two difference-makers (Dan Connor and Paul Posluszny) from its home state last season. I'm not sure about you, but I had nothing better to do on New Year's Day, so I watched the Rose Bowl, where Michigan received: a school bowl-record four TD passes from Chad Henne; 300 all-purpose yards from Steve Breaston; a career-high nine tackles from Marlin Jackson; three more stops from Ryan Mundy; and a couple of catches for 19 yards from Tim Massaquoi. Any idea what those five have in common, besides the fact that they are all destined to be (or are already) high NFL draft picks? Adding Eastern opponents on a regular basis won't completely rebuild the fence Joe Paterno once had around the state, but it will help. It will also help to get the Lions back into a few rivalry games, something that has been sorely missing the past decade because the strongest Big Ten rivalries were long since established when PSU joined the league. Face it, Penn State is not THE game for any of the Big Ten big boys.
HARRINGTON'S FINAL WORD: We both know scholarship limits have created an environment where no school can dominate its home turf — ask Maryland about Derrick Williams, or Rutgers about Dennis Landolt, Jerome Hayes and Tamba Hali, or Syracuse about Rich Ohrnberger, Mark Rubin and Alan Zemaitis, or UConn about Brennan Coakley, Chris Baker and Willie Harriott, or Georgia about Jordan Lyons, or Michigan about Tim Shaw and Ed Johnson. Every team loses native kids they wanted to stay in-state. The point is some kids dream of playing for the "home" team and others want to head far off from home. Heck, I was one of those kids who lived eight hours away from Happy Valley but saw no other school for me aside from PSU. Every fan should HATE to lose top talent regardless of the state the players are from. I also think PSU should pull in the best talent available and recruit nationally, or at the very least from the Rockies east. Having added exposure of PSU's magic in places like Texas or the Carolinas can work wonders. I don't think having an "out-of-state" player score the winning touchdown makes a PSU victory any less sweet — whether that kid from Virginia, Georgia, California or Pennsylvania, as long as he bleeds blue.
BRENNAN'S FINAL WORD: So this is what Penn State has been reduced to, celebrating recruiting victories over Maryland, Rutgers, UConn and Syracuse on their respective home turfs? Hell, did any of these outfits even have a "home turf" before the Lions entered the Big Ten? I'm all for a more national approach to recruiting and don't think lining up regional and national non-con slates should be mutually exclusive. But if I had to lean one way, it would be to protecting the home front. Do that, and perhaps the program will consistently earn a 13th game — in Arizona, California, Florida, Louisiana or Texas.