Penn State's bowl destination

Posted by mmq on December 4, 2009 

But where? I get asked, often. So, here's MMQ's take on what will happen Sunday, with all the possible answers.

The SEC winner will play Texas for the national title. It appears likely that the SEC winner will be ranked No. 1 in the final BCS poll. That's important. If the SEC winner is ranked No. 1, the Sugar Bowl will pick first, likely taking the SEC runner-up. Then the spotlight will shift to the Fiesta Bowl, which has the second pick. It has a tough task, picking either PSU or Iowa to try to give it a game and crowd and TV ratings. Iowa travels well, perhaps not as well as PSU, but well enough. PSU, on the other hand, can deliver monster ratings and a crowd. (Why anyone pays the exorbitant costs for these games, in a recession no less, is another post for another time.)
So, the Fiesta needs a marquee name with a big following. Why, because the Orange picks next, and it DEFINITELY needs a big name/draw after some really crappy matchups.
The teams that have to be picked are the teams ranked 4th or higher in the final BCS and the ACC(K)and Big Least champs. Since the Big Least winner will be the Pitt/Cincy survivor, no one wants that team. Neither travels well (hell, Pitt can't give away tickets to their games AT HOME! and Cincy set a school record with about 36,000 fans last week) or pulls in ratings. TCU also has to be picked. So for the three bowls, four spots are accounted for. Orange will have the ACC winner, Sugar will likely have the SEC runner up and the Big Least winner and the Fiesta will have two at-large selections. If everything holds form and there are no upsets this weekend, here's what MMQ sees:

Sugar takes Bama
Fiesta takes PSU/Iowa
Orange takes PSU if Fiesta fails to do so and instead goes off the board to take TCU.
Sugar takes TCU
Fiesta takes Boise St., pre-empting some screams from Congress
Orange takes Big Least winner.

So, either PSU or Iowa get Boise St. I think it's a great matchup for PSU or Iowa. Of course, I don't think Iowa/BSU will bring in ratings outside of those markets, even though the game is by itself that night.

All that said, what about upsets? Nebraska upsetting Texas would really hurt Iowa I think. The Fiesta would then lose its chance for two at-large elections since it would automatically get the Huskers. And it would open up the distinct possibility of an SEC rematch for the title. In that case, the Sugar would get the first two picks (I think). In that case, I think they'd love to get Texas or PSU (or both). Neither has been to N'Owlins in forever. Whichever one didn't go to the Big Easy would then go to the Orange, leaving TCU for the Fiesta and the Cincy/Pitt winner for the Orange vs. GT/Clemson.

Of course, Florida might lose the SEC title game. In that scenario, I'm not certain the Sugar takes Florida. Their fan base usually travels well outside Florida for TITLE games. Others, not so much. Tebow, though, is a ratings machine, so that is a factor in their favor, as is their history with the SEC.

Speaking of history, PSU has a nice history with the Fiesta, but it seems to have cooled. The Fiesta turned its back on PSU in 2005, instead grabbing Notre Dame and sending PSU to the Orange for the much-marketed JoePa-BB bowl. If you'll recall, the B10 runner up,OSU, had a better matchup with ND and PSU was stuck with a low-rated, 4 loss FSU. (Don't get me wrong, it was a heckuva game.) So maybe the Fiesta owes PSU one, or maybe the spark has gone out between PSU and the Fiesta. Who knows?

MMQ would prefer a BCS matchup, and matchup. GT, Boise or TCU is fine by me. All will be highly ranked, especially TCU and Boise. And, with all that said, the Cap One ain't too shabby either. It might be PSU's most likely destination, with a date with LSU almost assured. But while that sounds great, the fact is LSU is under .500 in the SEC the last two years. Sure, they're in the SEC, but while it's two big names, I'd still rather the BCS. Maybe it's just me, maybe not.

So we'll find out together sometime Sunday afternoon. Until then, be cool.

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