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Staff Predictions: Penn State’s Bowl Destination

Bowl season is nearly upon us, which means No. 12 Penn State football is eagerly awaiting its bowl destination. The Nittany Lions’ postseason fate will be decided Sunday afternoon when the College Football Playoff committee unveils its final top 25 rankings of the season. 

Despite the team’s current top 12 ranking, our staff isn’t confident the committee will send James Franklin’s program to a New Year’s Six bowl for the third consecutive season.

Brian Bachman: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky

A Citrus Bowl appearance against Kentucky is the least exciting, but most likely option for Penn State. Thanks to Michigan’s inability to complete its “Revenge Tour” and beat Ohio State, Penn State is likely to find itself right outside of the New Year’s Six equation. There are chaos situations that would result in the Nittany Lions winding up among the New Year’s Six, but it’s certainly a big ask.

Although the Citrus Bowl is a disappointing outcome, a matchup with Kentucky provides a great opportunity to seize some momentum heading into the offseason and secure a third consecutive 10-win season.

Matt DiSanto: Outback Bowl vs. LSU

It’s hard for me to imagine the Nittany Lions playing in a New Year’s Six game. Ohio State and Michigan will both likely be left out of the playoff, and it seems far-fetched that the committee would choose three Big Ten teams for the New Year’s Six bowls. That said, Penn State will certainly receive a ticket to a solid bowl game.

The Outback Bowl seems like a perfect fit, as it’s about as close as you can get to the New Year’s Six without actually getting there. After LSU’s heartbreaking seven-overtime loss to Texas A&M, a drop in the rankings could lead to a matchup against the Nittany Lions. This would make for an exciting game that could lead Penn State to yet another 10-win season.

Matthew Fox: Outback Bowl vs. Florida

I think there are just too many teams better qualified for a New Year’s Six Bowl than the Nittany Lions. They’ll have to settle for the next best thing in the Outback Bowl. The Gators would provide an intriguing matchup for Penn State. Seeing Trace McSorley try to combat one of the better defensive units in the country would be a fitting ending to No. 9’s career in Happy Valley.

Derek Bannister: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky

I don’t think Penn State will be able to slide into a New Year’s Six game this season, as Ohio State will likely fail to make the playoff, Michigan is a lock for a New Year’s Six bowl, and Penn State would have to jump the likes of LSU or UCF in the eyes of these bowl committees (or something — bowl season is confusing).

The Citrus Bowl seems like the clear spot for the third-best Big Ten team and pretty much fits the No. 12 ranking that Penn State currently has in the College Football Playoff rankings. It seems like LSU and Florida have considerable favor for New Year’s Six bowls, so Kentucky does seem like the natural opponent. It could be a lot worse than traveling to warm, sunny Orlando in the middle of the winter.

Will Pegler: TaxSlayer Bowl vs. Appalachian State

Who wants to play in a New Year’s Six bowl anyway? The Nittany Lions last played in this storied bowl game in January 2016. Penn State unfortunately lost 24-17 to the Georgia Bulldogs, but the game featured a young freshman quarterback by the name of Trace McSorley when Christian Hackenberg left with an injury. McSorley played well, throwing for two touchdowns and nearly leading a fourth quarter comeback.

Where else would No. 9 want to finish his career than Everbank Stadium in Jacksonville, the place where his career got started? I would love to see McSorley get a chance at vengeance in the TaxSlayer Bowl and do it against a team that gave Penn State one of its most exciting games of this season: Appalachian State. The Rose Bowl in 2017 was fun, but I think everyone can agree that it doesn’t compare to the electric atmosphere of Everbank Stadium. Pack your bags, Penn State fans: you’re spending New Year’s in Jacksonville (and learning how to fill out our taxes)!

Mikey Mandarino: Citrus Bowl vs. Kentucky

I tried to come up with a scenario in which Penn State qualifies for a New Year’s Six bowl, but it’s just too big of an ask. There are simply too many teams ahead of the Nittany Lions. Four SEC teams in the hunt for the College Football Playoff and/or New Year’s Six games combined with the Group-of-Five’s UCF’s automatic bid in one of the games makes this too steep of a hill to climb.

Elissa Hill: Bubble Bowl vs. Appalachian State

At least the halftime show would be worthwhile.

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