If you love scoreboard watching, raise your hand! If you don’t, you better start enjoying the process, because Penn State won’t make the College Football Playoff without some help.
We outlined some of the Big Ten scenarios that need to happen after Saturday’s loss to Ohio State, but now that we know where Penn State stands in the eyes of the committee, we can potentially see how certain games may impact the Nittany Lions.
The best part about the season’s first (or any, for that matter) CFP ranking is that we know absolutely nothing, so these are just predictions. If you need an example, remember last year when Ohio State edged Big Ten Conference champion Penn State out of a spot in the playoff, despite the Buckeyes having lost to Penn State and not made the conference title game.
Without further adieu, here are a few scenarios that could play out over the next few weeks, with statistics from fivethirtyeight.com’s predictions generator.
Ohio State Loses To Iowa, Clemson Falls to NC State, Oklahoma Falls To Oklahoma State
I like this scenario a lot because it’s feasible. Penn State’s best chance to make the playoff is if Ohio State loses not once, but twice. After last year’s semifinal debacle, I just can’t see a scenario where the the CFP committee sends anybody besides the Big Ten champion through to the playoff, unless all conference champions somehow come into the end of the year with two losses.
Keep in mind this scenario is limited in a sense. Yes, Ohio State losing would be huge for the Nittany Lions, but nothing else matters as much if the Buckeyes don’t drop their final game to Michigan. Assuming Penn State wins out, and Ohio State loses to both Iowa and Michigan, then Penn State will book its trip to Indianapolis.
The other two major losses seen here are both quite feasible; Oklahoma showed it can lose, and faces an explosive aerial attack in Oklahoma State’s Mason Rudolph and James Washington Jr. Clemson is no stranger to upsets either, after falling to Syracuse at the Carrier Dome a few weeks ago. The best part about both of these matchups? They’re on the road: Clemson travels to NC State, while Oklahoma travels to Stillwater for the Bedlam clash.
Miami Falls To Virginia Tech, But Rallies To Upset Notre Dame
The rankings might not reflect the sentiment, but Miami is a very good, very much undefeated football team. We couldn’t use fivethirtyeight.com’s predictor for this one, since the Miami-Notre Dame matchup is two weeks away, but the magnitude of this one can’t be forgotten.
If Notre Dame wins out, even without a conference title, I firmly believe the Irish make the playoff. Secondarily, I also feel like an undefeated Miami cannot stay undefeated and beat Notre Dame. If that happens, expect to see Miami cruise for a potential ACC Championship showdown with — based on current standings, assuming these teams all win out — NC State, not Clemson.
Miami has a lot to gain in the next few weeks, and the ideal scenario is to have Miami head into the clash with Notre Dame with a loss on its record, but somehow find a way to rally and defeat the Irish, a result that should firmly boot the Irish from a spot in the Playoff.
Georgia Or Alabama Lose Twice
Hold off on calling me overly optimistic, but just take a look at the remaining schedules of both teams:
Before diving into this, it’s also entirely plausible that Georgia and Alabama win out, one beats the other in the SEC Championship game, and both make the playoffs. But, the location of these games is important. Mississippi State is no easy place to play, and quarterback Nick Fitzgerald is putting up Tebow-style numbers — and checks in at No. 6 in the conference for rushing. He’s arguably outperformed Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts this season, and I fully expect the Bulldogs to put up a fight against the Crimson Tide. If that one doesn’t happen, keep in mind that the Iron Bowl will be played at Auburn, against a feisty Tigers team that would love nothing more than to spoil everything for the Tide.
Georgia isn’t out of the woods yet, either. After steamrolling Florida, the Bulldogs host a resurgent 6-2 South Carolina team that should put up a fight. If that isn’t the case, then traveling to Auburn won’t be a cakewalk, either.
If either of these teams lose twice — and it’s almost guaranteed that they’ll drop at least one game (to each other, assuming both make it to the conference title game) — then it might be hard to keep both in the playoff.
Have you exhaled yet? That was a lot to take in, but if you think about it, some of this definitely could happen in the coming weeks. What exactly will it do to Penn State’s Playoff chances? Well, I’m not the one sitting in the conference center of the Gaylord Texan Resort. Only the College Football Playoff committee knows those answers, but I can guarantee you it’ll bolster Penn State’s cause. Tough road games are the constant here, and anything can happen in an upset-minded environment against an upset-minded team.
Just ask Michigan.