Traveling to Big Ten away football games is about to become less of a hassle for Penn State fans.
Sunday, the conference announced its much anticipated divisional realignment, which will begin with the 2014 season. The Big Ten also announced plans to expand the league schedule to nine games (up from the current eight) beginning in 2016.
The realignment will be based on the geographic location of each school, which is a real bonus for Penn State football fans. PSU has been the eastern-most program in the Big Ten since it began conference play in football in 1993. Ohio State -- a five-hour drive to the west -- is currently the closest conference opponent.
But that will change next year, when Rutgers and Maryland join the Big Ten. The Nittany Lions' old Eastern rivals are both about 3.5 hours away by car.
The east division will feature Penn State, Maryland, Rutgers, Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State and Indiana. Each school in the division is in the Eastern time zone and only Indiana is more tham seven hours away by car.
The west division will feature Purdue, Northwestern, Illinois, Wisconsin, Iowa, Minnesota and Nebraska. Purdue is the closest school to Penn State -- about nine hours away by car.
For 2014 and 2015, each school will play the other six schools in its division and two from the opposite division. Starting in 2016, there will be a third game against a team from the opposite division.
The current conference configuration, which began when Nebraska began league play in 2011, has made traveling to road game difficult for Penn State fans and families of the Nittany Lions. Of the opponents in PSU's Leaders Division -- Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Purdue and Wisconsin -- only OSU is within reasonable driving distance of Pennsylvania.
State also has an annual protected game with Nebraska of the Legends Division. The schools are separated by more than 1,000 miles.
The driving distance from University Park to each Big Ten school (as calculated by Google Maps):
Penn State, 0
Ohio State, 322
Michigan State, 454