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Staff Predictions: Penn State Football’s Bowl Destination

Penn State football wrapped up its regular season with a 10-2 record, and that just may be enough to secure the team its third New Year’s Six bowl bid in the last four seasons.

The Nittany Lions checked in at No. 10 in the College Football Playoff committee’s second-to-last rankings of the 2019 season. That’s prime real estate for, at the very least, a bid in one of the Cotton or Orange Bowls. However, James Franklin’s program is still the third-highest ranked Big Ten team in the committee’s top 25 behind No. 1 Ohio State and No. 8 Wisconsin, which will duke it out in the Big Ten championship game on Saturday. A big win by the Buckeyes could be enough to push Penn State ahead of the Badgers in the Rose Bowl conversation.

With all that in mind, a few of our staffers took a shot at predicting Penn State’s eventual postseason fate.

Mikey Mandarino: Rose Bowl vs. Utah

It’s hard for me to put into words how much I want Penn State football to play in this year’s Rose Bowl. It’s, you know, warm in California, and getting to watch a game at a venue as iconic as the Rose Bowl would be a fantastic experience for me and my family.

Beyond my selfish reasons for wanting to go to Pasadena, two Rose Bowl appearances in four seasons would be quite the feather in the Nittany Lions’ cap. The Nittany Lions weren’t expected by many to make much noise entering this year (I thought they’d go 8-4 — foot, meet mouth), and a Rose Bowl experience would be well deserved for a young team that battled to be in this position.

First-year starter Sean Clifford was a bit of a wild card at quarterback — especially considering the relative youth of his surrounding skill players — but he had a great season. Penn State’s defense, however, was one of the best in the nation for most of the regular season, and it proved worthy of a spot in the Granddaddy of Them All.

As for Penn State’s opponent, I’m going with a bit of a wild card here. Many are expecting No. 13 Oregon to secure the Pac-12’s Rose Bowl bid if it gets beaten by No. 5 Utah in the conference’s title game. I think the Utes will win, but I also believe that No. 6 Oklahoma will pick up a more convincing win over No. 7 Baylor in the Big 12 championship game to snatch the fourth and final spot in the College Football Playoff along with LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson.

Will Pegler: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon

Although the Nittany Lions won’t play for a Big Ten crown, this year, championship weekend will still be interesting to watch for Penn State fans. I expect Wisconsin to get rolled over by Ohio State for a second time this season in Indianapolis, and that would allow for James Franklin’s squad to rise and become the highest-ranked Big Ten team not in the College Football Playoff.

While two losses to arguably the best team in the nation won’t be a horrible blemish on the Badgers’ resume, their loss to an Illinois team that finished its season 6-6 will be too much to overcome.

As for Penn State’s opponent in Pasadena, I think Oregon will lose a close one to Utah in the Pac-12 championship. This combined with a Georgia defeat to LSU in the SEC title game will result in Utah earning the No. 4 seed in the College Football Playoff. It’ll also leave Oregon as the Pac-12’s representative at “The Granddaddy of Them All.”

This would be a fun match-up to watch, as Penn State’s solid defensive unit will face a tall task in stopping Oregon’s explosive offense. Nittany Lion fans should also focus on their old friend Juwan Johnson, who currently has 349 receiving yards and four touchdowns for the Ducks this season.

Matt DiSanto: Orange Bowl vs. Virginia

Rose Bowl, Schmose Bowl. The Orange Bowl is where it’s at, folks. Sure, it’s not as “prestigious” or “cool” as the Granddaddy of Them All, but the Orange Bowl has a charm of its own. Heck, who doesn’t love a good-ol’-fashioned Big Ten/ACC matchup? The Nittany Lions would likely need a lucky break to head to Miami, though, as Wisconsin would need to defeat Ohio State and earn a Rose Bowl bid, while Florida would need to somehow fall below Penn State.

To be perfectly honest, though, I’d love to see the Nittany Lions take on the Cavaliers in Florida because my little brother, Andrew, is a freshman down at Virginia. It’d be a dream come true to rub it in his face when Sean Clifford drops 90 on the Hoos. A man can dream, can’t he?

Andy Mollenauer: Rose Bowl vs. Utah

I think Penn State has a real shot at smelling the roses in Pasadena this year. If it comes down to Penn State and Wisconsin, the Nittany Lions’ losses should be pretty forgivable considering their strength of schedule. Penn State won multiple games against ranked teams, with one of its losses coming at the hands of a nearly unstoppable No. 2 Ohio State squad, which the Nittany Lions played pretty tightly.

If Ohio State blows out Wisconsin, which lost to a 6-6 Illinois side and got absolutely destroyed by the Buckeyes earlier this year, at the Big Ten title game in Indianapolis, Penn State should be the clear choice for the Big Ten’s bid in the Granddaddy of Them All.

Jarod Kutz: Rose Bowl vs. Oregon

I think the Nittany Lions will play in this year’s Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day, but Penn State’s likely competition for getting the opportunity to play in this New Year’s Six bowl game is No. 8 Wisconsin.

Although Wisconsin is playing in the Big Ten Championship and Penn State is not, the Badgers play top-ranked Ohio State in the conference title game. Wisconsin lost to Ohio State by more than 30 points the first time the two teams played, and Ohio State hasn’t slowed down since. The Buckeyes are a double-digit favorite to take down Paul Chryst’s team again, and I think they’ll likely cover the spread again en route to another beatdown of the Badgers.

The Badgers will suffer a third loss — possibly by double digits — which could potentially open the door for Penn State to be given the opportunity to play in Pasadena. In addition, it’d be fantastic to see the Nittany Lions get another shot to leave Pasadena victorious after 2017’s gut-wrenching loss to USC.

Anthony Fiset: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. Alabama

I can just smell the roses potatoes now. Penn State is destined for the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl. There’s no football destination in America greater than Boise State’s blue turf in the heart of Idaho. New Year’s Six bowls have been wack ever since the introduction of the College Football Playoff, and none of them let you take home an elegant glass bowl full of the most versatile and superior food in American cuisine — potatoes. Some say that the Famous Idaho Potato Bowl’s trophy is the second greatest trophy in college football.

Gabe Angieri: Bourbon Bowl vs. Iowa

Alright, hear me out, folks. Why wouldn’t you want Penn State to play in the most prestigious bowl game of all-time? The Nittany Lions would take the same field that the great Bobby Boucher did when he won the Mud Dogs the Bourbon Bowl on November 6th, 1998.

I can just see it now: It’s halftime, Penn State is down 27-0, and it feels defeated. But in a stunning twist, the ghost of Joe Paterno shows up and says, “Remember the time when [Joe Paterno] showed up at halftime, and the Nittany Lions won the Bourbon Bowl?” The whole team goes crazy, and Paterno coaches them to victory by a final score of 30-27.

Owen Abbey: Famous Idaho Potato Bowl vs. San Diego State

You heard it here first, everybody. Penn State is going to most desirable bowl destination out there: Idaho. How exciting would it be to see the Nittany Lions go out to the midwest and bring home a sack of potatoes to put in their trophy case? I mean, what would you rather have: a bouquet of roses or fresh, delicious potatoes that can nourish you and have far more practical use than stupid flowers? I think the answer is quite obvious.

Also, the seniors need a fresh, unique game to wrap up their Penn State careers. Although they lost in 2017, the seniors already got a chance to play in Pasadena. It’s unfair to them to have to go back to the boring old Rose Bowl, so going to a new place like Idaho would provide a new and different experience for the team. At the end of the day, a new experience is what matters the most.

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