Well, the winning streak was fun, but sooner or later it was bound to end. That’s what happened Saturday night in Columbus, and that’s ok. The season’s first College Football Playoff rankings will be released on Tuesday, and no, the Nittany Lions will not be included in this edition. But, with plenty of meaningful football left to be played, we take a look at the road ahead for Penn State along with the breaks it needs as the postseason nears.
After taking down the Nittany Lions, Ohio State takes the Big Ten East lead since the Buckeyes’ conference record is unblemished. Penn State, meanwhile, falls to a tie with Michigan State for second place in the conference. This means one thing: the Nittany Lions need Ohio State to lose at least two regular season games in order for a trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game to be feasible.
Penn State will not be “Ohio State’d” if you will, if the Nittany Lions don’t win the Big Ten Championship. By that, I mean Penn State won’t see the same fate as Ohio State received last year, when the Buckeyes advanced to the College Football Playoff despite not playing for a conference championship. With this said, the Buckeyes have three possible ways to lose: at Iowa, at home against Michigan State, and then at Michigan a week after hosting Illinois. Though the Hawkeyes have struggled in conference play, nobody travels to Iowa City and leaves with an easy win. Iowa’s ruined the hopes of rival schools before, and it could do the Nittany Lions a huge favor with an upset next weekend. But, it gets further complicated; even if the Buckeyes fall to Iowa, they’ll still hold the head-to-head advantage over Penn State. Ohio State must fall in The Game against Michigan, and the Nittany Lions have to bet on Jim Harbaugh and co.
Yes, this scenario resembles last year ever so slightly, but James Franklin’s postgame comments make a lot of sense with this logic. “This is a crazy game,” Franklin said postgame, and he’s exactly right. Anything can happen on a given week, so the Nittany Lions just need to hope for a little luck to play in their favor as the next few weeks play out.
Winning out is imperative, too.
Unlike Ohio State, the Nittany Lions need the Wolverines to do just one thing: beat the Buckeyes in the final regular season game of the year. Michigan’s Big Ten Championship hopes have all but vanished, but with a very legitimate opportunity to defeat Ohio State in arguably the greatest rivalry in all of sports; that’s the only thing Michigan can do to aide the Nittany Lions.
Though it seems in question with Michigan’s recent quarterback switch, there’s a chance the Wolverines can pull off the upset. Michigan has talent on its roster, and its rivalry with Ohio State is traditionally played close. If the aforementioned Buckeye loss can come next weekend, this is the last break Penn State needs. If both of those things can happen, and the Nittany Lions can win their remaining games, a trip to the Big Ten Championship is in the picture. If the Nittany Lions can win that, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be included in the College Football Playoff selection committee’s final four teams at the end of the season.