After coming in at No. 7 in the first College Football Playoff poll of the season last Tuesday with a lone blemish against a quality opponent in the Buckeyes, Penn State’s playoff outlook is murkier than it was a week ago. As long as the Nittany Lions are able to win out and a couple of results go their way in the coming weeks, it’s still very possible they could sneak into the Playoff.
That being said, the Nittany Lions no longer control their own Playoff destiny following last week’s loss to Ohio State. Instead, they will have to rely upon results around the country over the next month.
Here are a few games this Saturday that could affect Penn State’s Playoff chances:
South Carolina at No. 1 Georgia – 3:30 p.m. on CBS
No. 19 LSU at No. 2 Alabama – 8 p.m. on CBS
The top two teams in the country will face off against a pair of 6-2 squads hoping to cause a shake-up atop the CFP rankings. Both the Crimson Tide and the Bulldogs are favored by more than three touchdowns.
Penn State fans should continue to hope for either Georgia or Alabama to slip up at some point before the SEC Championship game. If either of the SEC heavyweights were to fall at some point before the title game, it would help eliminate the possibility of the loser of the SEC Championship game still sneaking into the Playoff.
No. 6 Ohio State at Iowa – 3:30 p.m. on ESPN
If the Nittany Lions are to earn a return trip to Indianapolis to defend their Big Ten Championship, they are going to need the Buckeyes to lose twice over the next month. While that remains unlikely, Ohio State’s schedule is anything but easy.
The Buckeyes travel to Iowa, play at home against Michigan State and Illinois, and then finish their season with a trip to Ann Arbor to take on Jim Harbaugh’s Wolverines — not exactly a cakewalk down the stretch.
If the Hawkeyes could steal one against Ohio State, it would go a long way toward improving Penn State’s Playoff and Big Ten chances. Kinnick Stadium is never an easy place to play, especially late in the season. If you don’t believe me, just ask Jim Harbaugh.
No. 4 Clemson at No. 20 N.C. State – 3:30 pm. on ABC
N.C. State will try to use its home field advantage this weekend to rebound from last week’s disappointing loss against Notre Dame against another top-tier opponent in Clemson.
If Clemson were to fall at Carter-Finley Stadium this Saturday, it would eliminate one large hurdle directly in front of the Nittany Lions, and it would go a long way toward the ACC potentially playing its way out of the CFP discussion.
A Tigers loss in this game would leave only undefeated No. 10 Miami and one loss No. 13 Virginia Tech as viable ACC playoff candidates. Those same two teams just so happen to be playing against each other this weekend…
No. 13 Virginia Tech at No. 10 Miami – 8 p.m. on ABC
Miami fans were most likely disappointed by the Hurricanes’ No. 10 ranking on Tuesday, considering they remain undefeated at 7-0. But in reality, Miami has yet to beat a quality opponent this season.
This could change when the Hurricanes take their first crack at a ranked team this Saturday at home against Virginia Tech. The Hokies come into the game with a 7-1 record, their only loss at the hands of Clemson.
Penn State fans should root for Virginia Tech to knock off Miami, removing another team from the ranks of the unbeaten and another potential roadblock to the Nittany Lions’ trip to the Playoff.
No. 5 Oklahoma at No. 11 Oklahoma State – 4 p.m. on FS1
It’s not too often when the result of the Bedlam clash between the Sooners and the Cowboys directly affects the Nittany Lions. The outcome of the game this year, however, could directly influence whether or not Penn State will lay claim to a coveted top four spot at the end of the season.
The match-up between Oklahoma and Oklahoma State promises to be an epic shootout between high-scoring spread offenses. Both teams are led by experienced quarterbacks in Baker Mayfield and Mason Rudolph, and feature plenty of weapons for each dynamic slinger to utilize.
The winner of the game will most likely be ranked above the Nittany Lions in next week’s ranking. The loser, on the other hand, could be out of the Playoff picture entirely.