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ESPN: Bowl-Eligible Big Ten Team May Get Snubbed

Penn State football fans should still be confident in the 6-6 Nittany Lions getting a bowl bid this year, but an ESPN report today might have some fans tepidly nervous. Adam Rittenberg reports that a memo circulated to all Big Ten athletic directors indicated that a “new agreement with the Capital One Orange Bowl could create a scenario where there aren’t enough contracted bowl spots for every eligible team.”

As it stands, there are 80 bowl-eligible teams for 76 spots. Each bowl is contracted by a specific league, and a conference like the Big Ten typically has more than enough contracted bowls to go around, but ESPN explained one scenario in which one Big Ten team might get shutout, which is probably less confusing presented verbatim:

Beginning this season, the Orange Bowl will pair an ACC team against the highest-ranked non-champion not in the College Football Playoff from the SEC, Big Ten or Notre Dame.

Michigan State, ranked No. 8 in Tuesday’s College Football Playoff rankings, likely will head to the Orange Bowl if No. 1 Alabama wins the SEC championship game Saturday. The next highest-rated SEC team behind Alabama is No. 10 Mississippi State, but neither Michigan State nor Mississippi State plays before the final rankings and bowl pairings are set.

If a Big Ten team goes to the Orange Bowl, the league will not have a team in the Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl. If only one other Big Ten team — the league champion — makes a Playoff semifinal or another New Year’s Six bowl, the league would have eight eligible teams for seven contracted bowl spots.

Illinois (6-6), Rutgers (7-5), Maryland (7-5), and Penn State (6-6) are all on the fringe of eligibility. Penn State lost to two of these three teams, including the only other 6-6 team in Illinois.

“Given this year’s circumstances, and the new processes and procedures in place for the College Football Playoff, the Orange Bowl and our other contract bowl arrangements, the conference office felt it was necessary to reiterate the operational impact so that any hypothetical outcomes could be planned for and covered in advance,” the memo reads, per ESPN.

The Daily Collegian did some solid reporting that should grant Penn State fans some relief. They spoke to TaxSlayer Bowl CEO Rick Catlett, Holiday Bowl director of communications Susan Reid, and Outback Bowl director of communications Mike Schulze, all of whom have positive projections for Penn State.

“There are a number of bowls that would like to have Penn State,” Catlett said. “The only thing I can say is Penn State is desirable for everybody.”

“I have not heard a lot of conversation about Penn State, but what I have heard is they’ll go to Florida,” Reid said, who noted that Penn State wasn’t in the conversation for the Holiday Bowl in San Diego. The only realistic Florida bowl seems to be the Catlett’s TaxSlayer bowl, played on January 2 in Jacksonville, or perhaps the New Years Day Outback Bowl, but that seems like an unrealistic stretch for a 6-6 team.

“Certainly, Penn State is going to be very well-thought of and a good catch for whatever bowl game they go to,” Schulze said. “Whether or not it’s in Florida, it’s probably too early to tell.”

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About the Author

Kevin Horne

Kevin Horne was the editor of Onward State from 2012-2014 and currently holds the position of Managing Editor Emeritus, which is a fake title he made up. He graduated from Penn State with degrees journalism and political science in 2014 and is currently seeking his J.D. at the Penn State Dickinson School of Law. A third generation Penn Stater from Williamsport, Pa., Kevin is also the president of the graduate student government. Email: [email protected]

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