Penn State isn’t going to the College Football Playoff, and it’s not going to compete for a national championship.
The Nittany Lions would need absolute chaos — every upset possible — to sniff a shot at a semifinal.
What’s more realistic is that Penn State finishes the 2017 regular season with a 10-2 record and ends up in a cushy bowl somewhere nicer than State College in late December or early January. Not ideal for Penn State, but also not the end of the world.
So, what are the likely bowl destinations? Here are the most likely:
New Year’s Six
Many thought that if Penn State didn’t make the College Football Playoff, the Nittany Lions would end up in the Orange Bowl. The Miami-based bowl has a Big Ten tie-in, and surely they’d want a Penn State team with Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and company.
But now that No. 6 Ohio State lost to Iowa on Saturday, the Buckeyes are likely out of the playoff picture, too. And with the Buckeyes’ head-to-head win over Penn State, they’ll probably be above the Nittany Lions in the bowl pecking order. Plus, Michigan State is sitting here with a win over Penn State and only one conference loss.
There’s still so much football left to be played and a lot more questions left to be answered.
Will Ohio State lose to Michigan? Will Michigan State represent the Big Ten East in the Big Ten title game? What happens to currently unbeaten Wisconsin? Where does Michigan fit in?
But Penn State making the Cotton Bowl or Fiesta Bowl as an at-large pick or the Citrus Bowl with that Big Ten tie-in at 10-2 isn’t out of the question.
As long as the Nittany Lions don’t tumble down in this Tuesday’s playoff rankings too far, Penn State should be in a firm enough position to make one of those New Year’s Six destinations.
All things considered, the Cotton, Citrus or Fiesta Bowl wouldn’t be a bad get.
I know Penn State fans don’t have fond, recent memories of the Outback Bowl — Matt McGloin and his five interceptions were a sight to see in Tampa back in 2011 — but a trip to Raymond James Stadium this year wouldn’t be awful.
The Nittany Lions would face an SEC opponent. The way it’s looking right now, that’d be either Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State or even South Carolina or Kentucky. Outside of Georgia and Alabama, the SEC is wide-open.
Ultimately, if PSU does finish 10-2, they have a better shot to end up in an at-large New Year’s Six bowl.
But if not — if the Nittany Lions trip up again in this closing three-game stretch — it’s looking like the Outback Bowl.