Penn State Men’s Soccer Rooting Guide For Final Week Of Regular Season

It all comes down to this.

Penn State men’s soccer has just one week left of the regular season and has an outside chance of joining its female counterparts as champions.

The Nittany Lions head to the spring break capital of the Northeast on Wednesday to play Maryland, with kickoff set for noon. This will be the final game Penn State plays before the Big Ten Tournament begins, although the other eight members of the conference will all play on Sunday to close out the Big Ten slate.

With that said, here is all you need to know for the last week of Big Ten action before the postseason begins:

How Is Seeding Determined?

Game cancellations due to COVID-19 have caused some teams, Penn State included, to play fewer matches than the originally scheduled 10.

The Nittany Lions will finish the season with only eight matches completed, the fewest of any Big Ten team. The team needed to endure a 16-day period with no games, which included cancellations against No. 5 Indiana and No. 14 Michigan.

Because of the uneven number of games completed, the conference has elected to use the points per game (PPG) metric to determine seeding rather than just using points, a system that favors teams with more games under their belts.

Here is how the current Big Ten table looks, with the matchups remaining in the season:

Wednesday, March 31:

No. 14 Michigan vs. Ohio State
Maryland vs. Penn State
Michigan State vs. Wisconsin
Byes: No. 5 Indiana, Rutgers, Northwestern

Sunday, April 4:

No. 5 Indiana vs. Maryland
Wisconsin vs. No. 14 Michigan
Ohio State vs. Michigan State
Rutgers vs. Northwestern
Bye: Penn State

How Can Penn State Win The Regular-Season Title?

Penn State’s destiny is firmly in the hands of Indiana, although the Nittany Lions can put the pressure on with a win in College Park.

Should they defeat Maryland, the Nittany Lions would be level with Indiana heading into the Hoosiers’ last match. Ironically, having Indiana play just one game actually hurts Penn State, because when it comes to points per game, more games for a winning team just means more chances to drop the average.

The math is sure to be confusing all week long, but if Penn State wins and Indiana loses or draws, the Nittany Lions will be Big Ten regular-season champions.

If Maryland earns a point out of Penn State, the title can still be stolen if the Terrapins then pick up a shock victory over Indiana on the weekend. In that scenario, Penn State would win the title by a margin of just .042 ppg.

Essentially, the Nittany Lions need to get a better result against Maryland than Indiana, while the Hoosiers just need to match Penn State.

Luckily, Jeff Cook and his team will need to only focus on the Hoosiers. Michigan can pick up a maximum of 19 points over nine games. Even if the Nittany Lions were to lose on Wednesday, they would finish with a 2.25 average.

Who Would The Nittany Lions Face In The Tournament?

It may be the end of March, but that can’t stop us from looking at projected brackets.

Due to their incredible resiliency, the Nittany Lions have clawed their way to a position of power within the Big Ten. Cook’s team has locked up a top-two seed in the conference, meaning it will face either No. 7, or the winner of the No. 8-9 play-in. Referencing the table from above, that is most likely going to be either Northwestern, Michigan State, or Wisconsin.

It is worth noting that these three teams were some of the toughest challenges all year for Penn State. One of Michigan State’s two wins came at Holuba Hall, incidentally the only game the Nittany Lions dropped points in all season. Northwestern and Wisconsin also proved to be stern tests — it took a golden goal to beat the Wildcats, and Pierre Reedy scored an 87th-minute penalty on Senior Day to finish off the pesky Badgers.

Simply put, no playoff game will be easy. Nonetheless, which team is most likely to visit Jeffrey Field on April 10?

Unfortunately for Penn State, chances are the team will finish second. Wisconsin and Michigan State face off on Wednesday, which will most likely act as an elimination game in the race to avoid the play-in. Northwestern will need a result against Rutgers on Sunday because at least one of the two teams chasing will get points.

Likely, Michigan State will put the pressure on the Wildcats before fading back into No. 8 in the weekend with a loss to Ohio State.

Here is a projection of the most realistic Big Ten Tournament bracket:

Bring it on, Northwestern!

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About the Author

Otis Lyons

Otis is a sophomore majoring in print journalism and is one of Onward State's associate editors. He lives just north of San Francisco, and is a diehard San Jose Earthquakes fan. Feel free to send over your soccer hot takes to his twitter @otisnlyons1 and instagram @otislyons

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