The Big Ten released an updated 2022 football schedule today, because a random Wednesday in January is as good a time as any to inform the public about changes in the works since the 2020 season ended.

Penn State probably had as much shuffling to its fall Saturday plans as any school in the league, and the new slate looks like it’ll only help the Lions.

The scheduled opponents remain the same, with the exception that Northwestern has been added and Illinois dropped. That’s probably a benefit to the Lions. Unless the Wildcats find a ton of help in the transfer portal, they look destined for another dismal season — despite their penchant for winning the West in even-number years. James Franklin and company won’t get a chance to avenge their 9-OT loss to the Illinois, but that might be for the best. Big Bad Bret Bielema outfoxed them as a 24.5-point underdog in October, so maybe it’s prudent to just let sleeping Illini lie.

The more significant change it this: Instead of playing Ohio State and Michigan back-to-back in Weeks 5 and 6, Penn State now gets the Wolverines in Week 7 coming off a bye and then the Buckeyes 2 weeks later at home.

All the games are listed for Saturdays as of now, but the B1G has the option to move games to Thursday or Friday to fill TV obligations. Penn State’s opener is rumored to be a candidate to move up to Thursday, Sept. 1.

Let’s break the coming season into thirds and ponder how the changes might impact our Nits.

Weeks 1-4

Schedule was: @Purdue, Ohio, @Auburn, Central Michigan
New schedule is: Same

Skinny: Having to open with a B1G road game for a second straight season is no picnic, but in a best-case scenario Penn State could get through this stretch unscathed. Purdue has emerging QB star Aidan O’Connell coming back but loses its 2 best players in WR David Bell and DE George Karlaftis. Auburn lost 3-year starting QB Bo Nix to the portal after dropping its final 5 games of 2021. The home games against MAC opponents should be wins, and maybe prized QB recruit Drew Allar sees the field in one or both of those.

Weeks 5-9

Was: Ohio State, @Michigan, bye, Illinois, Michigan State
Is: Northwestern, bye, @Michigan, Minnesota, Ohio State

Skinny: Moving Ohio State and Michigan back in the schedule gives Penn State more time to progress and prepare for its toughest games. But having a tough, physical Minnesota program in between the East heavyweights is no favor to the Lions.

Weeks 10-13

Was: @Indiana, Maryland, Minnesota, @Rutgers
Is: @Indiana, Maryland, @Rutgers, Michigan State

Skinny: If Penn State is out of the division race by this point, Allar could make his first start during this stretch, assuming it hadn’t happened already. Finishing at home against Michigan State certainly carries more appeal than going to Rutgers.

Final thoughts

Why the changes: The B1G’s massive schedule changes and cancelled games in the pandemic-altered 2020 season caused some chain reactions. Without tweaks to the schedule, for example, Illinois would have been traveling to Penn State for a third straight season this fall.

Not fan friendly: For those who plan ahead, having 4 PSU home dates changed (2 added, 2 subtracted) is really crappy. It’s hard to figure why these changes couldn’t have been made and announced soon after the 2020 season, even knowing further revisions might have been necessary if Covid messed with the 2021 campaign. But this is the Big Ten we’re talking about.

Penn State’s false start: Penn State tipped everyone off to the changes when it posted the new schedule on its website on Tuesday, only to quickly take it down and put the old one back up. (Now, a day later, the new one is back up.) Another false start for a program that’s been stepping on its own foot since losing to Iowa to begin a 2-6 season-ending slide. I’m sure the Big Ten is just thrilled about the leak. Alas, Penn State remains the league’s seemingly unwanted stepchild 29 years since barely getting enough votes to become its 11th member.