STATE COLLEGE — Penn State will not play Ohio State for the first time since joining the Big Ten in 1993, according to the conference’s list of 2024-25 football opponents that was released Thursday.
The Nittany Lions, the only Big Ten team not to have a protected opponent, will not play the Buckeyes in 2025 and will not play Michigan in 2024 when the conference eliminates the two-division format and adds UCLA and USC.
Penn State will play the Trojans at Beaver Stadium in 2024 and at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in 2025. The Lions also will play Michigan State and Rutgers home and away in both seasons.
In 2024, Penn State will face USC, Ohio State, Michigan State, Nebraska and Northwestern at Beaver Stadium and Indiana, Purdue, Wisconsin and Rutgers on the road.
In 2025, the Lions will meet Illinois, Minnesota, Rutgers and UCLA at home and will have games at Iowa, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State and USC.
Penn State will play every other conference team in 2024-25. Teams will play every other conference team at least twice — once home and once away — in a four-year period.
Starting in 2024, the Big Ten Championship Game will pair the top two teams in the conference standings at the end of the regular season. Tiebreaking procedures will be announced later.
The Big Ten has 11 protected games: Illinois-Northwestern, Illinois-Purdue, Indiana-Purdue, Iowa-Minnesota, Iowa-Nebraska, Iowa-Wisconsin, Maryland-Rutgers, Michigan-Michigan State, Michigan-Ohio State, Minnesota-Wisconsin and UCLA-USC.
It was unclear why Penn State doesn’t have a protected opponent.
Cephas arrives >> Former Kent State wide receiver Dante Cephas enrolled at Penn State late last month and already has impressed coaches.
“We only get so much interaction with them (at this time of the year),” Penn State coach James Franklin said Thursday. “What we have seen from him has been good. He has a personality that meshes with our locker room really well. He has a lot of humility.”
The 6-0, 180-pound Cephas, who played high school ball at Penn Hills with Penn State cornerback Daequan Hardy, was a two-time All-Mid-American Conference first-team pick for the Golden Flashes.
He caught 48 passes for 744 yards and three touchdowns in nine games last season and had 82 receptions for 1,240 yards and nine TDs in 2021. He has two years of eligibility remaining.
“He’s consistent,” Penn State wide receivers coach Marques Hagans said when asked what he’s seen from Cephas on film. “He’s able to make plays down the field. You see a guy who loves to play football.”
Cephas has the inside track to start with returning veteran KeAndre Lambert-Smith at wide receiver.
Strong line >> Penn State finished spring practice in April with questions about its depth at defensive tackle, but that position looks much stronger.
Nittany Lions coach James Franklin went out of his way Thursday to praise the defensive tackles in general and D’von Ellies and Hakeem Beamon in particular.
“D’von Ellies is someone I’m super proud of right now,’ Franklin said. “He’s always had the ability. He’s as charismatic of a leader as we have. He’s working at a level he’s never worked at before. I’m really excited about him.
“Hakeem Beamon has a chance to be one of the better defensive tackles in the country. Hakeem is bigger than he has been in a long time. We have a chance to have one of the best d-lines in the country.”
Beamon started 12 games last season, and Ellies played in every game. Both are fifth-year seniors and probable starters.
Penn State also has promising sophomore Zane Durant and Old Dominion transfer Alonzo Ford at tackle.