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Penn State’s Rooting Guide For Championship Saturday

There’s been plenty of speculation about which bowl game Penn State football will end up playing in this postseason.

A 9-3 record in the regular season earned the Nittany Lions the No. 12 spot in the College Football Playoff committee’s second-to-last ranking of the year, placing them firmly on the New Year’s Six bubble.

Contrary to popular opinion, the Nittany Lions actually seem to have a pretty good chance at an invitation to a New Year’s Six bowl. Here’s the scenario Penn State fans should root for on Saturday to have the best odds:

  • Ohio State blows out Northwestern to win the Big Ten.
  • Oklahoma beats Texas to win the Big 12.
  • Georgia beats Alabama to win the SEC.
  • Clemson beats Pitt to win the ACC.

Go Sooners And Go… Buckeyes?

First and foremost, the Buckeyes and the Sooners have to win for Penn State to get a New Year’s Six bid. Oklahoma losing would hand the Big 12’s designated bid in the Sugar Bowl to Texas, which is ranked below Penn State right now. Both teams would also be ranked higher than James Franklin’s program despite losing in their conference title games.

If Texas and Northwestern lose on Saturday, both teams will be eliminated from New Year’s Six contention. They’re currently ranked lower than Penn State, and both would have more losses than the Nittany Lions.

Rooting for Ohio State goes against every fiber of a Penn State fan’s being, but in this case, a Buckeye victory on Saturday would be in the Nittany Lions’ best interest.

Down Goes ‘Bama…?

Georgia beating Alabama to win the SEC would help the Nittany Lions’ New Year’s Six hopes quite a bit. The Crimson Tide would still almost definitely qualify for the four-team playoff.

Alabama has won every game this season by at least 22 points, including two shutouts against ranked opponents LSU and Mississippi State. It’s hard to see the committee booting the Crimson Tide out of the playoff, regardless of Saturday’s results. Alabama’s case for the fourth and final spot in the playoff is still stronger than Ohio State’s or Oklahoma’s, even with a loss to Georgia.

All three teams would be 12-1, but Alabama would have the least damaging loss of the trio. Sure, the Buckeyes and Sooners would both be conference champions, but Alabama would still have most impressive résumé from top to bottom. Purdue’s blowout of Ohio State certainly isn’t the best look, and a season split against Texas still looks worse for Oklahoma than Alabama’s near-perfect season with one loss to the back-to-back SEC champions.

Nick Saban’s team might seem unbeatable, but a loss to Georgia may not be as far-fetched as you think. Georgia is a confident team peaking at the right time following a loss to LSU, and it’s easy to forget the team was just one blown coverage away from beating Alabama in the national title game last season.

Alabama definitely didn’t go through a cupcake schedule, but none of the teams it’s taken out are as good as Georgia. The two-headed monster of running backs D’Andre Swift and Elijah Holyfield leads Georgia’s strong offensive unit alongside quarterback Jake Fromm, and the Dawgs’ defense has allowed more than 30 points only once this season.

How It Breaks Down

If the above scenario actually comes to fruition, this is what the New Year’s Six field could look like:

College Football Playoff Semifinals

Orange Bowl: Clemson vs. Alabama
Cotton Bowl: Notre Dame vs. Georgia

Remaining New Year’s Six

Sugar Bowl: Florida vs. Oklahoma
Rose Bowl: Pac-12 Champion vs. Ohio State
Fiesta Bowl: UCF vs. Michigan
Peach Bowl: LSU vs. Penn State

If Alabama is able to hold off Georgia in the SEC Championship game, Penn State’s situation becomes much less optimistic. Due to bowl tie-ins, the Nittany Lions would need Ohio State to get into the playoff ahead of Oklahoma in order to earn a New Year’s Six bid for the third consecutive season.

Oklahoma qualifying for the four-team playoff means a lower-ranked Big 12 team would take its place in the Sugar Bowl. A Big 12 team has to go to the Sugar Bowl, so the Sooners’ qualification into the four-team playoff would slot Texas into that bowl despite its loss in the conference title game.

Penn State would be the third-highest ranked Big Ten team trying to secure a New Year’s Six bowl, likely leaving it out of the equation entirely. Ohio State would likely take over in the Rose Bowl, bumping Michigan down to one of the Fiesta or Peach Bowls along with LSU, Florida, and whichever group-of-five team earns its designated New Year’s Six bid (read: UCF).

Since the Buckeyes are currently ranked behind the Sooners, they’d have to absolutely dismantle Northwestern and hope that Oklahoma wins in unimpressive fashion against Texas.

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About the Author

Matthew Fox

Matt is a Senior from Lansdale Pennsylvania majoring in Broadcast Journalism. He loves sports, and is still patiently waiting for the Philadelphia Flyers to win a Stanley Cup. If you would ever like to reach out to Matt you can email him at [email protected].

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