Another football season has left us as quickly as it arrived. Penn State capped off another 10 win season with a senior day victory over Rutgers. There isn’t much to talk about from this one, it was a really bad game that I wasn’t able to watch. Rutgers is bad at football and Penn State really had nothing to play for. That matched with the smaller post-thanksgiving crowd was a formula for an overall bad game. Either way, Penn State is 1-0 this week and ends the season 10-2.
With all things considered, a 10-win season is a step in the right direction for Penn State Football. The losses to Minnesota and Ohio State hurt, but it shouldn’t put a damper on the entire season. I’ll have a full season recap later, but we still got a bowl game to play. Tuesday nights rankings put Penn State at No. 10 in the country entering Championship Weekend. Let’s take a look at where Penn State may play this bowl season, who they may play, and who you should root for this championship weekend.
The Impossible: College Football Playoff
It should be obvious now, but I’ll address it. Penn State is not going to the playoffs. It was a possibility for a long part of the season, but Minnesota put the nail in the coffin and Ohio State hammered it in. The playoff picture should be generally untouched in my eyes. Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson should all win their championship games. Georgia plays LSU in the SEC Championship Game and if they win, their in. Georgia winning doesn’t mean LSU is out of the playoffs though, meaning 2 SEC teams would be in the playoffs, leaving out Utah or Oklahoma.
My prediction is Ohio State, LSU, and Clemson all win and make the playoffs. This means Georgia is out, opening the door for Utah or Oklahoma to slip in. Considering the committees love for Oklahoma and their disgust for the Pac 12, my final four will have Ohio State vs. Oklahoma and LSU vs. Clemson in the playoff semifinals.
The Worst Case Scenario: Outback Bowl
Having the Outback Bowl as a “worst case” scenario is a good indication of how good this Penn State team is. A trip to Florida for bowl season is always a good time and the teams Penn State would play would really be a good benchmark for where this team is. If it comes to the Outback Bowl, Penn State would most likely play either Auburn, Texas A&M or, wait for it, ALABAMA. Alabama may have lost twice this season, but I don’t need to see that Alamba receiving core match up against the Penn State secondary. It would be like having five Rashod Bateman’s running at you every single play. Even with no Tua, Penn State doesn’t stand a chance.
If you play Auburn, Penn State would be playing against a top tier Auburn defense and freshman phenom in Bo Nix. If you play Texas A&M, the task isn’t as daunting but a Jimbo Fisher coached team lead by quarterback Kellen Mond will have a field day vs. Penn State. For the sake of my fragile ego, Penn State can’t play in the Outback Bowl. The Outback Bowl doesn’t have the same prestige as the other bowls I’m going to mention and I don’t need to see Penn State play Alabama or Auburn, PLEASE GOD NO!
The Plausible: Orange Bowl
Penn State could be making a trip to south Florida this bowl season to play in the Orange Bowl. This scenario is a little more complicated, but yet again still possible. This only comes if Penn State isn’t the second highest ranked team in the Big Ten post championship weekend. This would mean Wisconsin either won or played Ohio State close, resulting in them either staying at No.8 or dropping to No.9, which would be one ahead of No.10 Penn State. This would mean Penn State would have to claim the at large bid here, meaning they have to beat out Florida, Notre Dame, Alabama, Auburn, and any other team I couldn’t think of. The committee loves Penn State and with a favorable ranking, they can slide in ahead of all those teams.
If Penn State plays in Miami, their opponent would be either Clemson or Virginia. The only way Clemson plays in this game is if they lose to Virginia, which is highly doubtful. So if it comes to this, Penn State would play Virginia. Is it a favorable matchup for Penn State? Yes. Is it entertaining? Sure. Is it the most appetizing option Bowl game for Penn State? No. The only reason Virginia would get this spot is because the ACC Coastal is a joke and Clemson is in the playoffs. Virginia probably won’t even be ranked when they play in a New Year’s Six bowl game. From my minimal research, this is the first time since unranked Wisconsin represented the Big Ten in the 2011 Rose Bowl that an unranked team played in a New Year’s Six game. I like and respect Virginia, but they don’t deserve to be in this game. I would have preferred to play Justin Fuente’s Virginia Tech, as I think it would be a better game and a nice preview for Penn State’s trip to Blacksburg next season. Either way, Penn State playing in the Orange Bowl would be great, as any New Year’s Six game is good for this Nittany Lion team.
The Likely: Rose Bowl
I love the smell of roses on New Year’s Day. It’s crazy to think that this Penn State team is in a perfect place for a Rose Bowl berth, but it’s their. Penn State is currently the 3rd highest ranked team in the Big Ten, behind Ohio State and Wisconsin. With Wisconsin at No. 8 and two losses on the season, a loss in the Big Ten Championship game should put them below Penn State with three losses. With Ohio State in the playoff, Penn State would be the highest remaining ranked Big Ten team and that means a Rose Bowl berth. In an attempt to be unbiased, having Minnesota at No. 18 in the ranking is disrespectful to the Golden Gophers. Obviously i’m happy Penn State is in this position, but the Golden Gophers should be more of a factor then they are.
The only way this doesn’t happen is if Wisconsin wins in Indianapolis. It’s gonna be tough for the Badgers, but if they pull it off, they’re either in the Rose Bowl or maybe they slip into the playoffs. Considering Ohio State is a buzzsaw offensively and defensively, I don’t see Wisconsin having a chance. A close Wisconsin lose may still keep them over Penn State, but the committee loves Penn State and a Badger loss would relegate them to the Outback or Taxslayer Bowl.
My bet is Penn State will be smelling roses in a showdown vs. either Utah or Oregon. Similar to the 2016 Rose Bowl, either matchup would be one of the most enticing during Bowl season. If Penn State could win against either of these teams, it would not only be a highly ranked win, but a win against what one has to assume would be the Pac 12 champion. Take your pick on who you want to face. It’s either a dynamic Oregon offense lead by Justin Herbert and former Penn Stater Juwan Johnson vs the hard hitting, dynamic defense of Utah. For a gauge where Penn State is nationally, Oregon would be the better matchup, but I have a sour taste in my mouth from 2016 and want that Rose Bowl. So I’m predicting No.9 Penn State will have a date with No. 5 Utah on New Year’s Day in Pasadena, California. It still feels crazy to say, but ladies and gentlemen, prepare to take out that second mortgage to fund a New Year’s trip to the granddaddy of them all, the Rose Bowl.