In a not-so-stunning development, ESPN announced Monday that Penn State will meet Boston College in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge for a second year in a row.
Already, some intern in Bristol is probably writing up shot sheets for the entertainment conglomerate to inevitably brand the game between two 20-loss teams from a year ago as something along the lines of "a compelling rematch between a pair of plucky up-and-comers."
In real-world speak, that means "a ratings black hole so deep we're just going to regurgitate it and hope too few people saw the first time to realize it's a rematch."
So as the pair of F-Team announcers assigned to talk about this game for five minutes before ignoring it to drone on about Duke and North Carolina's draws in the Challenge (Ohio State and Indiana, respectively, if you haven't heard) practices different ways to say the Eagles will be looking for the ever-so-cliched "revenge" for their 62-54 defeat in Chestnut Hill last Nov. 30, let's call the event what it is for the Nittany Lions: useless.
To be fair, a lot of it's their own doing. When a team finishes tied for last place with a 4-14 Big Ten record, it has to expect it will be served a hearty helping of disrespect when it comes time for the suits to draw up the schedule. Any expectation that Penn State would get to host a program on the level of a Florida State or N.C. State let alone one from the blue-blood Tobacco Road duo was a pipe dream from the very start.
That said, the Challenge is supposed to help boost member schools' visibility and marketability by offering their schedules if not marquee matchups, at least somewhat compelling games to generate buzz on campus.
A 9-22 B.C. squad does nothing for State College, a town that has a hard enough time getting up for early-season hoops as it is.
Here's a look at teams from the bottom half of last year's ACC standings that Penn State could have faced if the TV executives had an ounce of creativity.
- Clemson was 8-8 in the league and 16-15 overall. The Tigers and Lions have not met since 2005, when Clemson won a high-scoring 96-88 affair in State College.
- Maryland was 6-10 in the league and 17-15 overall. When the Terrapins visited Happy Valley in 2010, they won in a 62-39 blowout. The game drew a solid crowd of 9,078 on a week night, though, and generated some testiness between the old Eastern rivals when the Twitter hashtag #MDhateweek took off among Penn State fans.
- The frequently bubblicious Virginia Tech was 4-12 in conference last season and finished with a 16-17 record overall. The Hokies last visit to the Bryce Jordan Center in 2009 produced a 66-64 nail-biter of a VA Tech win and a rowdy crowd of 11,237.
- Georgia Tech (11-20, 4-12) was Penn State's dance partner in 2008, when the Lions won an entertaining 85-83 decision in Atlanta.
- Penn State has not faced Wake Forest (13-18, 4-12) in the Challenge and has seen the Demon Deacons just once since 1961.
Instead, the Lions draw the same dreadful team they won their only true road game of the entire season against, this time at home, where theoretically they'll have an even bigger edge. Even with the darkest tint of blue-and-white sunglasses possible, it's hard to distinguish a reason to get excited about this game.
And if you think that hurts fans, try talking to the excellent Penn State marketing team that will have to try and sell tickets to this snoozefest they've had forced into their laps.
Unfortunately, that's what happens when broadcast barons, not the schools themselves, get to make schedules. The network's bottom line is the only one that counts.