Updated Bowl Projections For The Nittany Lions
As the regular season finale draws closer, the stakes get higher for No. 8 Penn State. Coming off a commanding 39-0 shutout over Rutgers in Piscataway, the Lions need only a few more chips to fall to reach either a New Year’s Six Bowl or the College Football Playoff.
The Big Ten East odds remained relatively unchanged after both Michigan and Ohio State eked out victories against Indiana and Michigan State, respectively. Penn State is the favorite to capture the Big Ten East crown with 49 percent odds to Michigan’s 41 percent. Ohio State trails heavily, coming in with only 10 percent odds. Penn State’s road to Indianapolis seems relatively simple. It merely has to defeat Michigan State in Beaver Stadium and hope that Ohio State can take down a Michigan team that’s struggled outside the confines of The Big House this season. The Wolverines have only lost once on the year, but that lone loss came in a tough environment on the road against Iowa. Playing against one another as top-three teams for only the second time since 2006, there’s as good a chance as any that Michigan could fall, which would secure Penn State its first trip to the Big Ten Championship Game.
That’s where things get very interesting.
The Lions, if they were to advance to the Big Ten Championship Game, would face either Wisconsin or Nebraska. Both programs face tough opponents in their regular season finales, with the Badgers squaring off against a loaded 8-3 Minnesota team while Nebraska heads to Kinnick Stadium to face a 7-4 Iowa team — the same venue that claimed then-undefeated Michigan. If the Badgers lose and Nebraska wins, it’ll be the Cornhuskers advancing to Indianapolis. If Wisconsin wins, it won’t matter what Nebraska does since it holds the tiebreaker over its Big Ten West foe.
From there, the College Football Playoff becomes that much more real. There’s a lot of variables — specifically, what happens to No. 4 Clemson and No. 6 Washington. If, say, the Lions were to beat No. 5 Wisconsin in the Big Ten Championship game, then it creates a very compelling case for the committee to analyze. Louisville is out of the picture, but Washington still has a tough matchup left against a very good Washington State team. With only one loss, it’d be tough to leave the Huskies out of contention, just as it would leaving out No. 7 Oklahoma — who doesn’t have a conference title game to play, but does have a talented opponent in No. 10 Oklahoma State left on its schedule.
Phew, that might’ve seemed like a lot, but it’s certainly a feasible notion. Now, if the Lions were to lose in the title game, or miss out on claiming the East altogether, there’s still hope for a New Year’s Six Bowl. Right now, the Lions are projected to make either the Cotton Bowl or the Orange Bowl — both of which would be fine consolations to missing out on the playoff. CBS has the Lions squaring off against Western Michigan in the Cotton Bowl, while SB Nation has the Lions pitted against Louisville in the Orange Bowl. I don’t know about you, but I’d take a date with Lamar Jackson over some postseason MACtion any day of the week.
So, there’s plenty at stake here for the Lions in this final week, but some of it is out of their control. In the words of James Franklin, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State, Michigan State…