Penn State’s odds for a spot in the New Year’s Six received a little boost Tuesday night.
The Nittany Lions remained steady at No. 10 Tuesday night in the fifth edition of the College Football Playoff rankings, meaning they’re in great position to get into either the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl. In fact, thanks to being ranked ahead of Alabama and Auburn, it’s difficult to come up with a plausible scenario where Penn State misses out on all three.
The Rose Bowl typically takes the highest-ranked non-playoff Big Ten team. If Wisconsin loses big to Ohio State, then Penn State should be headed to Pasadena, California. If the Badgers instead earn the berth, then the Orange Bowl remains a possibility — as long as two SEC teams head to the playoff.
It gets more complicated the deeper down the rabbit hole we go. But if only one SEC team makes it and Wisconsin smells roses? Well, then Penn State needs to be the highest-ranked remaining team to make it to the Cotton. (Let’s say Utah and LSU both win big and Wisconsin gets the Rose Bowl berth, then the Nittany Lions should earn a Cotton Bowl invitation.)
Penn State fans won’t have to wait much longer to find the actual destination here. The final CFP rankings, and the accompanying bowls, will be released from noon to 4 p.m. Sunday on ESPN during Selection Day.
At its base level, Penn State wants to see teams ahead of it fall — and teams it already beat come out on top. That gives the Nittany Lions an opportunity to move up while, at the same time, strengthening its resume.
Games to watch: Here are a few games to watch this weekend, who to root for, and why:
►No. 1 Ohio State vs. No. 8 Wisconsin, 8 p.m., Saturday, FOX (Indianapolis): Root for the Buckeyes to win big.
This is the simplest scenario: If Ohio State wins big, Penn State should be in the Rose Bowl. It’s that easy. Here’s why: Ohio State is ranked No. 1, Wisconsin No. 8, Penn State No. 10, Michigan No. 14 and Minnesota No. 18. If the Buckeyes win, they’re 100% headed to the playoff and can’t compete in the Rose Bowl. Then the Rose Bowl typically selects the next-highest ranked Big Ten team.
So at question here is whether three-loss Wisconsin will drop below two-loss Penn State on Sunday. If it loses by a field goal? Maybe not. If it loses by three touchdowns? It looks much better for the Nittany Lions to leap-frog the Badgers.
►No. 4 Georgia vs. No. 2 LSU, 4 p.m., Saturday, CBS (Atlanta): Root for the Bulldogs to win small.
This game won’t matter if the Buckeyes win big but, unfortunately, this game comes before the Big Ten championship. Still, if Penn State doesn’t make the Rose Bowl, a Georgia win here will gave it a better chance at the Orange Bowl. If the Bulldogs win, that gives the SEC its best chance at two teams in the playoff. If that happens, the third-highest ranked SEC team (Florida) will head to the Sugar Bowl.
That’s important to note because the Orange Bowl takes the highest-ranked team between the Big Ten, SEC and Notre Dame. And, with three SEC teams already accounted for in this scenario, Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl and Ohio State in the playoff, that means Penn State would earn an Orange Bowl berth. If Georgia gets knocked out of the playoff and Wisconsin heads to the Rose Bowl, then it gets tricky.
PSU offensive players honored by Big Ten: Three Penn State players — sophomore tight end Pat Freiermuth, senior offensive lineman Steven Gonzalez and sophomore wide receiver KJ Hamler — earned All-Big Ten second-team honors on Wednesday night from the coaches and the media.
Other PSU players honored were sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford (honorable mention, coaches and media), junior offensive lineman Will Fries (honorable mention, coaches and media), junior Michal Menet (honorable mention, coaches and media) and sophomore running back Journey Brown (honorable mention, media).
The major Big Ten offensive award winners were:
►Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year: Justin Fields, Ohio State
►Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year: David Bell, Purdue
►Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Justin Fields, Ohio State
►Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Rashod Bateman, Minnesota
►Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
►Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Brycen Hopkins, Purdue
►Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: Tristan Wirfs, Iowa