Penn State didn’t even need to play this weekend to move up in the top-25 rankings.
The Nittany Lions, who spent the past week on their bye, moved up three spots to No. 8 in the most recent Associated Press Top 25 poll, which was released Sunday afternoon. The rise wasn’t surprising, considering three teams previously ranked ahead of Penn State lost Saturday.
Penn State leap-frogged ahead of those three teams — including Oklahoma, who dropped four spots to No. 11; along with LSU, which fell eight spots to No. 13 and Auburn, which fell 13 spots to No. 21.
According to ESPN’s Playoff Predictor, Penn State currently boasts the sixth-highest odds to make the playoff. The problem is the odds drop precipitously after Georgia’s fifth-best 55 percent odds — as the Nittany Lions have just a 14 percent chance.
But, as we tend to remind readers every week, it’s still early and a lot can still happen. In 2016, Penn State was unranked in Week 7. Four weeks later, it was No. 9.
The AP rankings don’t actually figure into the playoff rankings, although they do tend to offer a nice sneak peek at where the selection committee may rank the teams. The first edition of the playoff rankings will be released Oct. 30.
Not only does Penn State need the teams ahead of it to lose, it also needs its opponents to win to strengthen its resume. Michigan State’s loss to Northwestern, for example, pushed it out of the top 25 and a Penn State win over the Spartans next week no longer looks as good.
Based on the poll, Ohio State is still the team to beat in the conference. It was ranked No. 3 on Sunday, followed by three other Big Ten teams in No. 8 Penn State, No. 12 Michigan and No. 15 Wisconsin. Iowa would be No. 26 based on other teams receiving votes.
The full top-25 rankings are listed below:
1. Alabama (59 first-place votes)
3. Ohio State (1)
4. Clemson (1)
5. Notre Dame
6. West Virginia
8. Penn State
16. Miami (Fla.)
20. North Carolina State
22. Texas A&M
23. South Florida
24. Mississippi State
Others receiving votes: Iowa 87, Stanford 59, Washington St. 46, San Diego St. 24, TCU 20, Appalachian St. 11, Utah 9, Utah 5, South Carolina 2, Hawaii 1.