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Playoff Committee’s Big Ten Rankings Leave More Questions Than Answers

Following a three-game losing streak over the last month, Penn State football was left out of the first edition of this year’s College Football Playoff rankings, which were released Tuesday night.

James Franklin’s team is in a brutal spot right now. While no one truly expected the Nittany Lions’ to take down No. 5 Ohio State this past weekend, Penn State’s gut-wrenching loss to Iowa — mainly due to Sean Clifford’s injury — and wildly frustrating Homecoming loss to Illinois are the true issues here.

Does Penn State deserve a spot in the top 25? There’s an argument. However, the Playoff Committee likely focused on the Nittany Lions’ brutal loss to the Fighting Illini (who just lost to Rutgers) and Penn State’s 2-3 conference record in deciding they’re not quite worthy of a top-25 spot just yet. There’s still plenty of time left for the Nittany Lions to prove they’re a talented football team, especially with a healthy starting quarterback, but they’re just not passing the eye test at the moment — fair enough.

With all of that in mind, however, some of the Big Ten squads ranked instead of the Nittany Lions are questionable at best.

The Big Ten West, also known as the perennial little brother to the eastern division, has three teams featured in this week’s rankings: Minnesota (No. 20), Wisconsin (No. 21), and Iowa (No. 22).

One of the key reasons Penn State was left out of this weekend’s ranking was the Illinois loss. With that same thinking applied, however, what should we make of Iowa’s loss to Purdue? The week after the Hawkeyes took down Penn State at Kinnick Stadium, Kirk Ferentz’s No. 2 team was dispatched 24-7 by a Boilermaker group that came to Iowa City with a 3-2 overall record.

To be fair, the Nittany Lions’ loss to Illinois is still worse than Iowa’s trip up against Purdue. However, the committee should probably consider the fact that Iowa (probably) doesn’t beat Penn State if Clifford stays healthy. After falling to Wisconsin on the road, the Hawkeyes have still yet to win a game since sneaking by Penn State.

Speaking of the Badgers, they come in at No. 21 in Tuesday’s rankings with a 5-3 overall record. Paul Chryst’s group obviously lost to Penn State in the season opener at Camp Randall Stadium and has suffered two other losses against Notre Dame and Michigan. Wisconsin doesn’t have as ugly of a loss as the Nittany Lions do, but it has just one ranked win and is losing the head-to-head battle to Penn State.

We’re obviously not in the room with the committee when these decisions are made, but it feels inconsistent to have the Badgers in over the Nittany Lions.

Finally, Minnesota seems to be a selection that’s pretty out of left field. The Gophers, like the Badgers, aren’t currently ranked in the AP Top 25 Poll. PJ Fleck’s team currently has a 6-2 record but also doesn’t have any ranked wins. Minnesota’s two losses are more eye-opening, however. It fell to a great Ohio State team week one but also tripped up in a 14-10 loss to Bowling Green three weeks later. That’s clearly an ugly loss, as the Falcons are currently 3-6 on the season with a 1-4 mark in the MAC. Even with that in mind, the Golden Gophers are still the highest-ranked team from the Big Ten West.

Again, with their recent struggles, the Nittany Lions probably don’t deserve to be in the College Football Playoff top 25 at this moment. But now, considering several of the Big Ten squads that did qualify this week, we’re left wondering why they deserve spots ahead of Penn State.

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About the Author

Will Pegler

Will is a senior majoring in digital and print journalism and is an associate editor for Onward State. He is from Darien, Connecticut and is a lifelong Penn State football fan. He loves a good 80's comedy movie, Peaky Blinders, The Office, and the New York Yankees and Giants. You can catch some of his ridiculous sports takes on his Twitter @gritdude and yell at him on his email [email protected]

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