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Penn State’s New Year’s Six Bowl Rooting Guide

Heading into rivalry week, the college football world is buzzing and there’s a lot on the line for Penn State

The No. 11 Nittany Lions are set to take on a battered Michigan State team in a game that will actually have the least impact on Penn State’s bowl destination. While most experts believe a Citrus Bowl trip to Orlando is the overwhelmingly likely scenario for the Nittany Lions, paths to a New Year’s Six bowl still exist.

Whether you have your fingers crossed for a trip to Pasadena or Arlington, we’ve laid out what needs to happen for Penn State to slide into its fourth New Year’s Six bowl in seven years.

Rose Bowl (No. 1 Big Ten vs. No. 1 Pac-12)

Smelling Roses? Penn State could be, too, but a handful of things would have to go its way.

Penn State is currently the third-highest-ranked team in the Big Ten behind Ohio State and Michigan, who sit at No. 2 and No. 3, respectively. So, for the Nittany Lions to be the top Big Ten team remaining, both the Buckeyes and Wolverines would need to punch bids to the College Football Playoff.

The problem? They play each other this week. So, if you want to see Penn State in the rose bowl, root for a nail-biting Ohio State-Michigan matchup. With Ohio State currently being ranked higher, a slight Wolverine upset seems to be the best bet to keep both teams in the playoff.

Another way to keep both the Buckeyes and Wolverines in the playoff picture would be to clear out the teams right behind it. So, root for Iowa State over No. 4 TCU, Texas A&M over No. 5 LSU, and No. 15 Notre Dame over No. 6 USC.

Another thing to keep in mind here is that TCU, LSU, and USC all have bids for their respective conference championship games. This gives them each another chance to stumble, while the winner of the Big Ten East can basically only boost its resume against whichever team from the West crawls its way across the finish line.

Cotton Bowl (At-Large vs. Group of Five At-Large)

The highest-ranked remaining team after the playoff bowls (Fiesta and Peach) and conference contract bowls (Sugar, Orange, and Rose) is selected to play in the Cotton Bowl against the highest-ranked Group of Five team.

So, as the current rankings stand, Penn State would need to jump Tennessee to sneak into the Cotton Bowl. So, you’ll be rooting for Vanderbilt over Tennessee if you want the Nittany Lions to head to Arlington. The Commodores are coming in hot with back-to-back wins over Florida and Kentucky. Bowl eligibility is also on the line here for James Franklin’s old squad and the Vols are without their starting quarterback.

Even if the Volunteers take care of business, it’s possible for Penn State to jump them in the next two weeks, especially with quarterback Hendon Hooker out for the year. The committee might recognize Penn State as a more formidable current opponent for Cincinnati or Tulane.

Another path to the Cotton Bowl would be an Auburn win over Alabama. That would be the Crimson Tide’s third loss of the season, making it hard to justify keeping them in the top 10.

Orange Bowl (No. 1 ACC vs. No. 2 Big Ten/No. 2 SEC/Notre Dame)

If Michigan or Ohio State take the Big Ten’s spot in the Rose Bowl, Miami is Penn State’s next-best bet. But, the Nittany Lions would have to jump either Alabama or Tennessee.

So, the rooting guide here is similar to the Cotton Bowl. You’ll want to see Vanderbilt over Tennessee or Auburn over Alabama. The Tigers are also fighting for bowl eligibility in the Iron Bowl after firing Bryan Harsin, so things could get scrappy in Tuscaloosa. It’s college football. Sometimes chaos reigns supreme.

You could also root for LSU to fall to Texas A&M, which would hand the Tigers their third loss of the season. And with an SEC Championship matchup with Georgia looming, LSU would then likely have four losses to its name by the time bowl selection Sunday comes around.

An interesting note here, which goes against who you want to root for if you want a trip to Pasadena, is that No. 15 Notre Dame could potentially leap Penn State with a win over No. 6 USC. The Nittany Lions would have one less loss, but the Irish would have a signature win that Penn State lacks.

So, if you have a place to stay in Florida or just really love Miami, root for USC over Notre Dame just to be safe.

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About the Author

Ryan Parsons

Ryan is a redshirt senior majoring in business and journalism from "Philadelphia" and mostly writes about football nowadays. You can follow him on Twitter @rjparsons9 or say hi via email at [email protected]

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