Who should Penn State schedule to fill vacancy in 2025?

·7 min read

Penn State is set to meet Syracuse on the playing field for a home-and-home series beginning in 2027. With the addition of Syracuse to the future schedule, Penn State’s non-conference schedule is now completely booked through the 2027 season, with one notable exception. Penn State has one remaining scheduling vacancy to fill in 2025. And with Penn State making an effort to line up at least one game against a power conference opponent in each schedule, there could be some fun possibilities to explore to fill that one single non-conference vacancy in 2025.

As a refresher, here are the non-conference opponents Penn State has lined up for the next six seasons (full future schedules can be found here):

  • 2022: Ohio, at Auburn, Central Michigan

  • 2023: West Virginia, Delaware, UMass

  • 2024: at West Virginia, Bowling Green, Kent State

  • 2025: Nevada, Villanova

  • 2026: Marshall, at Temple, San Jose State

  • 2027: Syracuse, Delaware, Temple

  • 2028: at Syracuse

As seen in the 2026 schedule, Penn State doesn’t necessarily have to fill its schedule with a power conference opponent. Although the Big Ten made an effort to make that a scheduling priority in the last few years, there is no strict policy prohibiting a Big Ten school from not scheduling a power conference opponent. But, ideally, that would be the case for Penn State as it looks to fill its 2025 schedule.

Penn State is set to host Nevada in the season opener on Aug. 30, 2025. Its home game against Villanova is scheduled for two weeks later on Sept. 13, 2025. One would be safe to assume Penn State’s schedule vacancy will fall in between those games on Sept. 6, 2025. But there is also the chance that week could be used for a Big Ten conference matchup. The Big Ten has taken steps to adding more conference inventory earlier in the year, which Penn State has been a part of. The 2022 season opener will be the third consecutive season Penn State will open the schedule with a conference game.

But, if that week is not used for a Big Ten game, here is every Power 5 program with an overlapping schedule vacancy for Week 2 in the 2025 season as of right now.

ACC

Florida State – The Seminoles would be fun to see, but they open the season with Alabama and end the year against Florida. Adding a game against Penn State a week after facing Alabama is not to be expected.

Georgia Tech – The Yellow-Jackets already have two games against Power 5 programs lined up with a road trip to Colorado in Week 1 and their rivalry game against Georgia.

Miami – OK, now we’re talking. But the Hurricanes are already getting Florida in September and have a date to be locked in against Notre Dame. So don’t count on a Penn State-Miami matchup in this spot either.

Virginia – Virginia would make good sense in this spot, especially since the Cavaliers never made the return trip to Happy Valley on a previous home-and-home arrangement (Virginia scheduled a game against Oregon instead of making a trip to Penn State in 2013 after Penn State visited Charlottesville in 2012. Virginia only has one non-conference matchup scheduled in 2025, against Coastal Carolina in Week 1.

NEXT: Big 12 and PAC12 teams with schedule vacancies

Big 12

Baylor – The Bears only have one game scheduled in 2025 so far, a Week 1 matchup with Auburn. Don’t count on Baylor adding a second straight game against a power conference opponent like Penn State for the following week.

PAC-12

Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Stanford – Penn State has been a while to get revenge for a Blockbuster Bowl loss to Bill Walsh’s Stanford Cardinal. But if Penn State was going to find a way to get Stanford on the schedule, they may have to travel to Stanford. The Cardinal already have two road games scheduled at Hawaii and BYU in the first few weeks of the season.

USC – Penn State and USC each with a scheduling vacancy in the same week? Well, this is too good to be true, right? It turns out, it just might be. The Trojans are opening the season the previous week against an SEC opponent (Ole Miss) and will include a matchup with Notre Dame in October. USC’s desire to add another power conference opponent to the mix may not be there.

Utah – If there is a PAC-12 option in play, Utah could be it. The Utes already have two road games scheduled at Wyoming and BYU in the 2025 season, and Utah may not be interested in a one-off. Could a trip to Utah be fit in as part of a home-and-home deal, even if the second game in Beaver Stadium can’t be squeezed in until 2028 at the earliest?

NEXT: SEC schools with an overlapping scheduling vacancy in 2025

SEC

Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Kentucky – The Kentucky Wildcats could be an intriguing option on the table as well. And you would think a showdown between a Big Ten and SEC program in Week 1 would be worth watching. So let’s throw this into the mix as a potential leading candidate that would certainly be backed by television partners, especially if the Big Ten continues a working relationship with ESPN.

LSU – Or, how about starting up a home-and-home deal between Penn State and LSU. Two schools with some of the most electric primetime atmospheres would make for a phenomenal home-and-home series. But like any potential home-and-home deal, Penn State would have to have the Tigers agree to a delayed second half of the scheduling agreement. But in this case, it may be worth the wait in between games.

Tennessee – There is one more option that would be fun to witness, as the Tennessee Volunteers have a few openings in September. After opening the season against Syracuse in Atlanta in Week 1, the Vols have a home game against UAB scheduled on Sept. 20. Odds are Tennessee wouldn’t be inclined to add a second straight power conference opponent to start the season in Week 1, but it would certainly be a lot of fun to see. Plus, Penn State has a solid history against the Vols.

OK, but what about Notre Dame?

James Lang-USA TODAY Sports

Notre Dame currently has 10 games scheduled for its 2025 season, all against Power 5 opponents with the notable exception of historic rival Navy, from the American Athletic Conference. And as of now, none of those games are scheduled for the first two weeks of the season, leaving Penn State’s Week 2 vacancy there to be filled by the Fighting Irish if they were interested.

But they won’t be. With nine P5 opponents and Navy already on the books, Notre Dame will be far more likely to fill its remaining vacancies with Group of Five options. In 2023, Notre Dame will play an FCS opponent for the first time in school history (Tennessee State), and then two weeks they play Central Michigan. Notre Dame has Northern Illinois and Miami Ohio on the schedule in 2024. Given this trend, it would be likely to see Notre Dame not even consider a possible game against Penn State, as much as we’d love to see it.

Any other independents available?

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

You bet! BYU only has three games currently scheduled for 2025, and none of those games are currently in line for Week 2. And BYU is a program that would welcome an opportunity to play a program like Penn. State as they look to form the most attractive schedules possible as an independent.

But BYU and Notre Dame are the only independent options with a vacancy in Week 2 as Penn State looks to fill its 2025 schedule.

While there are certainly some wildly intriguing options for Penn State’s vacant Week 2 spot, the way it will be filled in Week 2 probably comes down to one of two options. Either the Big Ten slides a Week 2 conference matchup into the mix or Penn State looks to add a game against a Group of Five opponent. Penn State already has a game against an FCS opponent with Villanova in 2025, so this vacancy may be Group of Five or bust for the Nittany Lions.

List

Penn State football future schedules and opponents

Related

The Big Ten's next media right deal could top $1 billion

ESPN's big question for Penn State football in 2022

Where is Penn State in USA TODAY Sports post-spring Top 25?

Comparing and contrasting Big Ten QB rankings for 2022

Penn State announces home-and-home football series with Syracuse

Follow Nittany Lions Wire on Twitter and like us on Facebook for continuing Penn State coverage and discussion. Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment on this story below. Join the conversation today.