Rivalries can’t be forced into existence. A conference may schedule two teams to face Thanksgiving weekend, and self-serving politicians might introduce trophies into series, but a rivalry can only happen organically — and the Penn State-Maryland rivalry is fast developing into a legitimate one.
Maryland scored a major victory over Penn State this week, landing a verbal commitment from high 4-star quarterback prospect Dwayne Haskins Jr. The Potomac, Maryland, prospect was being courted by a variety of schools, including Penn State.
Though head-to-head recruiting does not a rivalry make, the Penn State-Maryland rivalry began with some contentious sentiment on the recruiting trail.
Last offseason, Penn State head coach James Franklin referred to the states bordering Pennsylvania — specifically New Jersey and Maryland, both of which were adding new Big Ten members — as “in-state.” He added that you could “shut them down,” because the Nittany Lions were planting their flags throughout those states.
Franklin later took dismissive shots at Maryland, per the Baltimore Sun.
Maryland head coach Randy Edsall responded the best way a coach could in such a situation: His Terps beat Penn State last November, 20-19, and Maryland is now winning in the local recruiting scene. Haskins is the third 4-star, local product committed to the 2016 signing class.
In just one year, Edsall’s program has done more to establish the Penn State-Maryland rivalry than anything in the previous 97 years since the two universities first played.
They met routinely through the 1960s into the early 1990s, but Penn State’s move to the Big Ten ended a series no one could realistically call a rivalry.
When Maryland beat Penn State on the Nittany Lions’ home turf last season, it marked the second time in 38 tries the Terrapins won. The last came in 1960. Prior to their 2014 meeting, the final installment in the Penn State-Maryland rivalry was a 70-7 Lions win in 1993.
Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State hasn’t had a true, conference rival. The Nittany Lions were matched with Michigan State in the final week of the regular season for some years. Upon the league’s expansion to 12 teams in 2011, Penn State faced Wisconsin on rivalry week.
The Penn State and Ohio State fan bases shared animus, but that could never develop into a full-fledge rivalry; not with Ohio State already locked into one of the game’s most historic and heated rivalries already.
The developing Penn State-Maryland rivalry is coming together organically, and quickly. With an on-field loss and losing out on Haskins, rest assured James Franklin won’t dismissively refer to Maryland as falling “somewhere back there” on the Lions’ schedule.
This year’s meeting is October 24, by the way.