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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hit That Line

 It's fairly well documented that I'm no big fan of Maryland - College Park joining the Big Ten as one of the latest consequences of realignment. It makes no sense - the extraregionality, the cultural lack of fit, the marching band incongruence, and the fact that it tears asunder a conference tradition of more than 60 years. But all the while, there has been one small piece that has intrigued me: The possibility of a UMCP - Penn State rivalry.

The Big Ten's two latest additions - Rutgers being the other - had to have been at least in part with Penn State in mind. After all, the Nittany Lions are currently the conference's eastern outlier, the only school not located in the Midwest (though one could make the argument...) and, before gaining Nebraska in the most recent round of realignment, the newest member. Still, disputes between Pennsylvania and Maryland date back to before the founding of this country, and much as Kansas and Missouri hearkened back to history between the states in their rivalry (another casualty of realignment), Calvert and Penn's flagships would do well to do the same.

Full disclosure: I'm a nerd for the Mason-Dixon Line and all that comes with it. I hail from a state, Delaware, which owes all of its borders to Mason and Dixon's surveying. I jumped the line to get my undergraduate education in Maryland, and now reside in the south, considering proximity to the Line as a harbinger of home.

A little fuel was added to the fire of the not-yet rivalry, as Penn State hired as its head coach James Franklin, a former Terrapin assistant who was expected to be heir apparent to the head coaching position in College Park. Franklin instead headed south to Vanderbilt, but is now returning to the mid-Atlantic. He will no doubt be in some of the same living rooms in the region as Terps' head coach Randy Edsall.

All that said, it's very easy for Penn State and College Park to play up Cresap's War, the border dispute that led to the Mason-Dixon Line's formation, and in a conference that loves its rivalry trophies, present a crownstone to the victor. The two will meet annually as divisionmates in the Big Ten East, and with 200 miles between the two schools road tripping - if not "neutral" site games in Baltimore, Philadelphia, or Pittsburgh - seems obvious, especially when close conference trips are hard to come by.
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