WOGENRICH: Sifting through Penn State's bowl projections, and making case for Rose Bowl
- Penn State finished the regular season at 10-2 after a 27-6 win vs. Rutgers.
- The Nittany Lions are still very much alive for New Year's Six bowl game.
- A Rose Bowl berth is possible, as is a possible berth in the Orange Bowl.
There's plenty to sift through following Penn State’s 27-6 win over Rutgers.
Here’s a pick-six’s worth.
Bowl projections, updated: Here are the relevant points regarding the Rose Bowl’s selection procedures, which likely will come into play next week:
If Ohio State beats Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, the Rose Bowl will select a replacement team.
The Rose Bowl says that its “strong preference” is to select the conference’s next-highest-ranked team.
But, in what it calls a “cluster” situation, the Rose Bowl can factor in other criteria, such as a team’s last Rose Bowl appearance, head-to-head results, regular-season schedule, opponents played, etc. And that’s how Wisconsin, or maybe even Minnesota, could get the Rose Bowl invitation over Penn State.
The Big Ten this year certainly qualifies as a “cluster” situation. Penn State, Wisconsin and Minnesota will be ranked in the 10-13 range. Any of the three would be a fine choice.
The Lions’ last Rose Bowl appearance was 2017. Wisconsin hasn’t been there since 2013. Minnesota has been waiting since 1962.
Each team would have a compelling Rose Bowl argument and flaws to overcome: Wisconsin’s would be three losses, one to Illinois. Minnesota’s would be a road loss to Iowa, where Penn State won, and Saturday’s 38-17 loss at home to Wisconsin.
Penn State has the best overall resume, which the College Football Playoff committee acknowledged last week, but went to the Rose Bowl three years ago. If the Lions can be placed in another New Year’s Six game (the Orange or Cotton), that’s a consolation. And the Big Ten gets three teams in the New Year’s 6 games, which is a conference win.
Plenty of variables still exist, but the CFP committee will foreshadow Penn State’s destination Tuesday.
How will it rank Penn State in relation to Alabama and Florida, teams Penn State will compete against for the Orange Bowl? What if Baylor beats Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game rematch? And what if the Citrus Bowl somehow can finagle a Penn State-Alabama game?
For now, the prediction here is Penn State vs. Virginia in the Orange Bowl.
Jahan Dotson’s touchdown spin: The best he could remember, receiver Jahan Dotson hadn’t tried a spin move since returning a kickoff against Whitehall while he was at Nazareth.
“It’s a little scary doing it," Dotson said, "because you don’t know who’s going to be on the other side."
Dotson’s 44-yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter highlighted an otherwise meager day for Penn State’s passing game. Quarterback Will Levis had completed 6 of 12 passes for 32 yards and an interception prior to the play. And it was a needed spark.
Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne called the play against Rutgers’ zone defense that freed Dotson when a safety chased tight end Pat Freiermuth. Dotson found space, then made his spin move at the 5-yard line to get into the end zone. It was Dotson’s first touchdown since the Purdue game.
“When I caught it I realized there were a bunch of guys in the way of the end zone,” he said, “and I just tried to make a move.”
Pass interference: Penn State had its least productive passing game in 14 years, one that partly can be attributed to playing a backup quarterback in the regular-season finale. PSU head coach James Franklin said he thought Levis was pressing, both in practice and during the game, which produced 81 yards passing.
“This will be great tape for him to learn and grow from, and I am really excited about him and his future,” Franklin said. “But we could have been a little bit cleaner with some things tonight.”
Penn State’s 81 yards passing were the fewest since 2005, when Michael Robinson threw for 78 in a 17-10 win over Ohio State. It also marked the first time Penn State has thrown for fewer than 100 yards since 2014, when Christian Hackenberg threw for 93 in a 16-14 loss to Illinois.
Franklin said that starter Sean Clifford “could have played,” but the team decided to pursue an unspecified medical treatment instead.
“We just felt like, rather than [Clifford] each week gradually losing mobility, that this would give us the best chance to get him back and back to 100 percent for the bowl game,” Franklin said.
Perspective from Cam Brown: The linebacker, among 16 seniors introduced before the game, tried to apply perspective to Penn State’s victory. Though the Lions won by 21, it was Rutgers’ closest margin in nine Big Ten games. Further, Rutgers led in a Big Ten game for the first time this season.
But Penn State won, so Brown planned to enjoy it.
“You have to, because it’s hard to win no matter who you’re playing, no matter what day it is.” Brown said. "It’s hard to win in college football, especially in Division I and especially in a stage like this.
“… You play to win and when you do win, you’ve got to cherish those moments.”
What’s next? Though the players have a week off, Penn State’s coaches hit the recruiting trail Sunday morning (Sunday afternoon for Franklin, who planned to attend the Giants-Packers game at MetLife Stadium).
This is an important recruiting stretch for Penn State, which has 2½ weeks to cement the 2020 recruiting class before the early signing period begins Dec. 18.
Penn State will learn its bowl destination Sunday, then host recruiting visits Dec. 13-14. The dead period begins Dec. 16.
Three-and-out: Penn State’s senior class has won 41 games in four years. It’s the fifth class in Penn State history to win 40 games (1974, ’75, ’96, ’97).
Senior Blake Gillikin’s 72-yard punt was the second-longest of his career and the second-longest in Beaver Stadium history.
Linebacker Micah Parsons made at least 10 tackles for the seventh time this season.