By: Matt Bortner ESPN Radio 1450 Reporter
Believe it or not, as each week passes Penn State’s chances of making the College Football Playoff continue to grow. While they are still a long shot to reach the final four, it is not something to be ruled out at this point.
A trip to Indianapolis for the Big Ten Championship is more likely for the Nittany Lions, although outside help is needed once again. A Michigan loss to either Indiana or Ohio State paves a straight path for Penn State to represent the Big Ten in the East. The Nittany Lions must also win out their remaining games against Rutgers and Michigan State.
News broke yesterday that Michigan starting quarterback Wilton Speight could miss the remainder of the season with a broken collarbone. Another factor that seemingly increases Penn State’s chances to reach the championship game. That may not be entirely the truth, Houston transfer John O’Korn will step in for Speight. The redshirt junior won the Cougars starting job as a true freshman in 2013 and ended up winning the American Athletic Conference’s freshman of the year award after throwing for 3,117 yards, 28 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 11 games. Half way into his sophomore season O’Korn was replaced by dynamic dual threat quarterback Greg Ward Jr. O’Korn has appeared in eight games. He’s gone 13 of 18 for 114 yards and 2 touchdowns. O’Korn is more of capable of keeping the Wolverines afloat the Big Ten East and the College Football Playoff.
Alright, so we know what has to happen for Penn State to make the Big Ten championship game, we’ve beaten that to death. But where do the Nittany Lions stand in the grand scheme of things. First let’s acknowledge that wherever Penn State ends up, this season is an absolute success. After losing to Michigan and the injury toll rising many wandered if the Nittany Lions would even earn a bowl bid.
A crazy week of college football should propel Penn State (8-2) even higher in the College Football Playoff Rankings when released tonight around nine. Number 2 Clemson, #3 Michigan, and #4 Washington all ended up in the losing column. Number 8 Texas A&M and #9 Auburn also fell, dropping them to two losses a piece. Because of those losses, Penn State should climb to number 8 in the rankings.
The big question though is where the Nittany Lions will end up. In my opinion if Penn State wins out, Michigan does in fact lose one of their two remaining games, and Penn State wins the Big Ten Championship game, the Nittany Lions will still miss out on the college football playoff without extra help. If indeed that happens, it will be the ultimate kick in the nuts. Why? Because Ohio State would not even play in the conference championship and still make it to the College Football Playoffs. Oh and I’m sure you don’t forget that Penn State beat Ohio State. The committee seems to really like Ohio State’s body of work (as they should). If they beat Michigan, the Buckeyes will have four wins against the top 15.
Best Case Scenario
Indiana beats Michigan this week. Michigan beats Ohio State next week. Penn State beats Wisconsin in conference championship. Clemson or Louisville lose one of their two remaining games. Penn State sneaks into the College Football Playoff as a 3 or 4 seed.
Washington and West Virginia both would factor in to the playoff picture, but it appears that the committee does think highly of the PAC 12 and West Virginia is hurt by the fact that the Big 12 does not have a conference championship game.
If Penn State Doesn’t Get In
- The ideal landing spot for Penn State if they fail to reach the playoff is the Rose Bowl. If Penn State wins the Big 10 Championship Game but don’t get in the playoff that is probably where they will be headed.
- If they make the Big 10 Championship game but do not win it, it is possible for the Nittany Lions to still make a New Year’s six bowl game (probably the Orange or Cotton Bowl).
- If Penn State wins out but does not make the Big 10 Championship Game, it is once again possible to make a New Year’s six. The Outback Bowl would be the destination if not.
Well that was fun!