- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Bowl games are once again part of Bill O'Brien's recruiting pitch at Penn State, and not just bowls taking place after the NCAA sanctions end.
O'Brien and others at Penn State are fully committed to scheduling a game in Ireland in the coming seasons, which will serve as a bowl game of sorts for the players and fans. Unless NCAA penalties are reduced, which still seems unlikely, Penn State will be banned from postseason play for three more seasons.
The Lions won't play in the game formerly known as the Emerald Bowl, but they almost certainly will participate in their own Emerald Isle Bowl.
"We're definitely exploring it and trying to be aggressive about it," O'Brien told reporters Friday at the Maxwell Football Club awards.
There are two holdups, according to O'Brien. The first is finding an opponent willing to play in Ireland. The other is the future Big Ten schedule structure, which will feature nine or 10 games instead of the current eight.
League sources have told ESPN.com that the nine- or 10-game Big Ten schedule -- all indications point to nine games -- won't go into effect until the 2016 season, the first year Penn State's bowl ban is lifted. So if Penn State schedules the Ireland game in 2014 or 2015, it shouldn't have to worry about more Big Ten games.
There are other issues, such as the likelihood of earlier conference games. Penn State's game in Ireland likely will be the season opener or take place sometime in September. The Lions likely will play some Big Ten games in September beginning next season with a Week 2 matchup at future league member Rutgers.
Penn State has three non-league games set for 2014: Temple, Akron and Massachusetts. It has one more non-league contest to schedule, which could be the matchup in Ireland. Two non-league games are set for 2015: Temple and Buffalo.
Could Temple be a possible Penn State opponent in Ireland? Although it would be a great showcase for the Owls, I think Penn State needs to aim a little higher and schedule a team with more name recognition to enhance the event.
The Ireland game sounds like a great idea and should pay off for O'Brien on the recruiting trail. If only Matt McGloin could come back for one more game ...
13hTom VanHaaren and Erik McKinney