Your College Football Regular Season Finale Rooting Guide
The eve of the college football regular season is upon us, and the No. 7 Nittany Lions are in a prime position sitting at 9-2. However, the Lions still need some help if they’re to advance to the Big Ten Championship game — or beyond. We took a look at some numbers and came up with a few (realistic) scenarios with the help of fivethirtyeight.com’s generator to show you who you should be rooting for this weekend, and what it might mean for Penn State’s College Football Playoff odds.
This one’s easy. If Penn State loses to Michigan State, or Ohio State falls to Michigan, there will be no Big Ten Championship Game, and certainly no playoff. Penn State must win its final game and hope for an Ohio State victory. It won’t matter what happens in any of the other important matchups.
Here’s where things get interesting. Right now, Penn State’s odds of making the playoff are 15 percent. Let’s say the Lions win, Ohio State takes care of Michigan, and Wisconsin beats Minnesota. That’d send the Lions to Indianapolis to face the Badgers.
But one game could be the difference maker here: No. 5 Washington vs. No. 23 Washington State. Here are Penn State’s odds if Washington beats the Cougars. (For the sake of predicting, let’s assume all favored teams defeat their respective opponent).
Now, here are Penn State’s odds if Washington State upsets the Huskies.
That’s an 11 percent swing, mainly because the committee could still favor a one-loss Washington opponent over, say, a Big Ten champion Penn State. If you support the Nittany Lions, you want to root for Washington State today.
Now that we see how important a Washington State upset could be (without such a win, Penn State’s odds remain in the 20s), we’ll take a look at a few more games assuming the Huskies fall. Keep in mind, Nebraska has a 62 percent chance of losing to Iowa, so we’ll keep that in as well.
The second most important matchup for Penn State is No. 8 Oklahoma’s showdown with No. 10 Oklahoma State. One might think an upset would increase the Lions’ odds, right? WRONG! If the aforementioned scenario holds true, a Sooner victory actually increases Penn State’s odds to 35 percent as opposed to 31 if the Cowboys pull off the upset.
Another important note to consider: If this scenario plays out, the Lions need No. 9 Colorado to beat Utah. A loss there would dip Penn State’s odds to 29 percent versus 35.
Why Does All This Matter?
Numbers can be confusing, and multiple scenarios can further complicate. But, if we go with this scenario and assume those teams ahead and behind Penn State win out — which is a reasonable suggestion — there’s a good chance two Big Ten teams make the College Football Playoff.
So, if nothing else, root for Oklahoma and root for Washington State. Those two teams just might help the Lions soar higher than they’ve soared in quite some time.