From 2004 through 2012, Penn State has or will open Big Ten play on the road seven times in nine seasons. Meanwhile, the conference has given Ohio State a home opener in league play 70 percent of the time since the Nittany Lions entered in 1993.
The Penn State conspiracy theorists -- who believe the Big Ten has never treated its newest member (until Nebraska) fairly -- certainly would say that sounds a little fishy.
Is it a big deal? Maybe, maybe not. Good teams find a way to win on the road, but clearly the first conference game helps set the tone for the remainder of the season.
The Lions have lost five of their last six conference openers on the road. They haven't been much better at home, though, losing four of their last five.
Whether all this matters much or not is up for debate, but the schedule facts compared to Ohio State do speak for themselves.
In 20 seasons from 1993 to 2012, the Buckeyes have/will be at home for the conference opener 14 times, compared to only eight for Penn State. The entire chart is to the right and shows that only Northwestern (six) and Minnesota and Iowa (seven apiece) have had fewer conference openers at home than PSU.
Where to begin
In a span of 20 years, since Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1993 and through the 2012 season, this is how many times each league member has/will open up conference play at home versus on the road:
*--Joins league in 2011
How PSU has fared
The Lions have played nine road games and eight at home to start Big Ten play. But with road trips this year and the next two, it will be seven road openers in nine years from 2004-2012 and 12 in a 20-year span. The outcomes since 1993:
1998.....Ohio State.....L, 28-9
2000.....Ohio State, L, 45-6
2006.....Ohio State.....L, 28-6
The Lions travel to Iowa to start conference play Saturday. They will be on the road again the next two years and, although they were at home in 2008 and '09, they also were on the road four straight years from 2004-07.
Additionally, the Lions have had four years (2007, 2004, 1998, 1996) when their first two league games were on the road.
On "The NitWits" TV program Sunday night, the Mirror's Neil Rudel brought up the point that the Lions have been on the road to start Big Ten play a lot recently, so we researched how they compare to other teams.
Mark Rudner, who's in charge of scheduling for the Big Ten, said he has never been made aware of that breakdown or that Ohio State has been at home 14 out of 20 years. (The Buckeyes do open on the road this year at Illinois.)
"Very interesting," Rudner said. "Did not know that."
Rudner is associate commissioner of the Big Ten and is in his 32nd year with the league. He's also an Ohio State alum, which the Penn State conspiracy theorists surely will find interesting.
Rudner dismissed the notion that the league plays favorites on issues like scheduling or anything else.
"There is simply no truth to that whatsoever," he said. "It's pure folly to think that, and all we do and all we can do is create schedules based on the parameters that we're given by our athletic directors. They're the ones who approved the schedule."
The scheduling parameters, Rudner noted, that must be followed by the league include:
* Every team plays four home and four road games.
* No team can play more than two consecutive road games.
* The first half and second half of the schedule must be balanced with two home and two road games.
"All I can say is that if it was an issue for our athletic directors or our football coaches, they would have brought it to our attention beforehand and said, 'Listen, we need to make this a priority in our scheduling principles,'" Rudner said.
"But at no time in the last -- well since Penn State came into the conference -- at no time have I been part of any discussion whereby either the coaches or the athletic directors have said you need to balance out how you start the season at home or on the road."
It's not known how PSU feels about the quirky scheduling practices. Penn State spokesman Jeff Nelson sent this reply in an e-mail Wednesday when asked about the schedule:
"The home and away opponent data, playing dates and football scheduling principles are entered into the computer, and then the schedules are reviewed by the Big Ten staff and the athletic directors for final approval."
That means, at some point, PSU athletic director Tim Curley would have signed off on the schedules.
"If any of our athletic directors ... feel like there needs to be a much broader discussion about that or if there's a question about the integrity of the scheduling process, they certainly have the ability to raise those issues when we meet," Rudner said.
Maybe Penn State or no other school has complained, but it's tough to argue that opening at home so often has given Ohio State an advantage.
Cory Giger is the host of "Sports Central" from 4 to 6 p.m. daily on ESPN Radio 1430 WVAM. He can be reached at 949-7031 or firstname.lastname@example.org.