- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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CHICAGO -- Penn State is ineligible for the Big Ten championship or a bowl title for the next four seasons, but the Nittany Lions still could hoist some hardware at the end of their season.
Thanks to an idea from Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema, Wisconsin and Penn State likely will begin playing for a rivalry trophy this season. The Badgers and Nittany Lions are matched up in the regular-season finale through the 2016 season (the Big Ten hasn't released schedules beyond 2016).
Bielema brought up the idea to his boss, Wisconsin athletic director Barry Alvarez, who liked it. They then got the green light from the Big Ten office before approaching Penn State's acting athletic director, Dave Joyner, who also was on board with the plan.
Although it hatched several months ago, before the NCAA handed down severe sanctions on Penn State's program, Bielema still supports having the trophy.
"I'd still go ahead with it 100 percent," he said. "It's the story and the history of who they are and what they are, is what I was trying to focus on. ... I wanted to give us something at the end of the year. Obviously, there's the Ohio State-Michigan thing. I wanted us to have something that has a little bit of value."
The final week of the regular season features several traditional rivalries, including Ohio State-Michigan and Indiana-Purdue. Iowa and Nebraska launched the Heroes Game last year, played on Black Friday.
Wisconsin and Penn State played the most significant game on rivalry weekend in 2011, meeting in Madison for the Leaders division title and a ticket to Indianapolis for the league title game. Although such a scenario can't take place again until 2016, Wisconsin likely will have plenty at stake in the game, while Penn State could be in a spoiler role or view the game as a bowl of sorts.
Asked what the trophy might be, Bielema said, "No. That's beyond me. I'll leave that to the experts." It'll be hard to top this.
You're the experts. What would you like the Wisconsin-Penn State trophy to be? Do you like the idea?
4hBrian Bennett and Josh Moyer
1dBrian Bennett and Austin Ward