For the first time in Penn State football history, the Nittany Lions will be crossing the pond to play a game in Dublin, Ireland. Penn State will play UCF on August 30, 2014, in a game that will open the season for both teams.
Penn State released a statement announcing the game, in which Bill O’Brien stated:
“We are thrilled to announce that we will play UCF at Croke Park to open the 2014 season. Our players and coaches are so excited to go to Ireland and play a college football game in such a historic and outstanding venue. I have great respect for coach [UCF Coach Bill] O’Leary and his team, and playing UCF in Ireland will be a fantastic experience for all the players, coaches and fans.”
This was an announcement that has been expected for a while now for Penn State. Because they cannot play in a bowl game due to the ban following the Sandusky coverup, this is being looked at as a sort of replacement for the Penn State team. The international game is expected to also be a big marketing move for the school and program, as they will bring their damaged brand to Europe.
Notre Dame and Navy did this same game just last year, when the Irish defeated the Midshipmen 50-10 in Aviva Stadium in 2012. The game in 2014 will be played in Croke Park, instead, a 100 year old stadium in central Dublin.
Penn State’s other three non-conference games in 2014 will be home games against Akron, Massachusetts and Temple.
For Penn State, this should be a fun season opener, but not necessarily an easy one. UCF won 10 games last season, including the Beef O’Brady’s Bowl. UCF won’t just be looking to vacation with Penn State, but to upset the bigger program.
You can follow Alex Dale on Twitter at @alexdaleCFB.