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Penn State Headed to Capital One Bowl?

BCSUpdate: Nittany White Out is reporting that Iowa will be selected by the Fiesta Bowl, guaranteeing that the Penn State will play LSU in the Capital One Bowl. While the information seems legitimate, it’s not official – so those of you who are skeptical of internet buzz can read on.

We’re just under three hours away from finding out where the 2009 Nittany Lions are going bowling.

BCS Selection will be covered on both Fox and ESPN at 8 P.M. tonight. Some of you may be content to merely wait – but those of us who are impatient keep on projecting, projecting, and projecting. Not all of us know the intricacies of the bowl selection process, so the following is a guide to make your best educated guess.

Through the 10-2 season was widely regarded as ho-hum, developments in other divisions have guaranteed the team a New Year’s day game at worst. Penn State got some help this weekend when:

– Texas avoided the upset of the season with a field goal against Nebraska in the Big 12 championship game. By going undefeated, the Longhorns are a lock for the National Championship game, depriving the Fiesta Sugar Bowl of their Big 12 tie-in, thus making another BCS bid available.

– Cincinnati rallied to beat Pittsburgh in dramatic fashion. The Big East has no [correction: bowl-specific] automatic BCS bids, but the Panthers’ upset of the Bearcats would have likely allowed two of the teams in the Top 14 BCS rankings. With three losses, Pittsburgh poses no threat to Penn State’s possible BCS bid.

– Clemson failed to beat Georgia Tech. Similar to the Big East championship game, an upset would have made things murky – Clemson would have gotten the ACC’s automatic bid to the Orange Bowl, but Georgia Tech would have only two losses and (in spite of the loss) retained a Top 14 ranking.

What does this mean? In short, it means that A) Of the 10 spots offered by the five BCS bowls (Championship, Rose, Sugar, Orange, and Fiesta),  6 7 are taken; and B) The only viable competition to those remaining four three spots are Florida, Texas Christian University (TCU), , Boise State, and Iowa. Virginia Tech, Louisiana State University (LSU), and Brigham Young could be surprise picks – but the first two’s three-loss record and the latter’s weak conference likely excludes them from contention.

Florida and TCU – by virtue of ranking and record – are all but guaranteed spots. The two remaining would either go to some combination of the four teams – Iowa, Penn State, Cincinnati, and Boise State – excluding a Penn State/Iowa pairing because of the rule that any conference can not send more than two teams to BCS bowls. Ohio State got an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl by winning the Big Ten Championship, guaranteeing that either the Hawkeyes or Nittany Lions get bumped to a non-BCS bowl. The Big Ten team left out would go to the Capital One Bowl to face an SEC team, most likely LSU.

Read on to find out the possibilities for Penn State’s bowl prospects

So where are there open spots in BCS bowls? The Sugar Bowl will most likely pick Florida first. Next is the Fiesta Bowl – which will, in my opinion, ultimately determine whether Penn State goes to a BCS Bowl. The general feeling is that the Fiesta Bowl prefers Iowa to Penn State, while the Orange Bowl prefers Penn State over Iowa. If the Fiesta bowl picks the TCU Horned Frogs, Penn State would be available for the next pick. My best guess is that Penn State will be picked over Iowa.

At the same time, if the Fiesta Bowl does NOT pick TCU – it will most likely either pick Iowa or Penn State. Because of the aforementioned preferences, I think that team will be the Iowa Hawkeyes. The Orange Bowl will be forced to take either Cincinnati or Boise State with its next pick, as the two-team limit for the Big Ten Conference would have been reached. That would leave the Nittany Lions with a trip to the Capital One bowl in Orlando.

A third, more remote possibility is that both the Fiesta Bowl and Orange Bowl pass up Big Ten teams. It’s unlikely, considering that either the Hawkeyes or Nittany Lions would offer a much better traveling fanbase and television ratings than any other team that would be available, but let’s just entertain the possibility. In the case that only ONE team from the Big Ten goes (which would be Ohio State), Iowa would go to the Capital One Bowl by virtue of the head-to-head win over Penn State in September, and the Nittany Lions would be knocked down to Tampa’s Outback bowl. An unlikely scenario – but still, a January 1st Bowl Game.

What will happen? We’ll most likely find out when the Fiesta Bowl will make its first selection. If you ask me, everyone should cross their fingers and hope that selection is TCU.

About the Author

Mark

Mark McColey is a Senior majoring in Advertising and Labor-Employment relations. Among his loves are Penn State Football, The Steelers, The Penguins, The Simpsons, Tina Fey, and Arrested Development.

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