Hi there Roar Lions Roar readers! Id like to start by saying I have been a Penn State diehard fan since the moment my-young-self knew what football was. You might see why I had to start with that as it might seem I'm not later on. Ok onto business. When Penn State lost to Michigan earlier in the year and started 2-2, their chances to make the CFB Playoff were a mere .3%. Although that seemed to count the Lions completely out of the picture, we sit here just four days away from the Big Ten Championship Game which those same (7)Nittany Lions, will take on Corey Clement and the rest of the 10-2 (6)Wisconsin Badgers. Both teams present very respectable resumes and the winner could see itself in the CFB Playoff. As we know, there is a committee for a reason and having a committee shows that conference championships don't mean everything as they did during the BCS era or NCAA Basketball Tournament. Meaning, the committee will be forced to put the best teams in an exclusive four team playoff. If Penn State does beat a very good Wisconsin team, they add another win over top ten opponent and conference championship to their already impressive resume. That resume will include two top ten wins, a division and conference championship, and a head to head win over (2)Ohio State. However, will that be good enough to top a Michigan, Washington, or Ohio State? You'll hear from all over people arguing PSU should or shouldn't make the playoff. So, when the final decision is ultimately made, how should the Nittany Lion faithful feel with the decision by the committee, whether it be in favor or against Penn State? Im going to explore both outcomes using Penn State as the Big Ten Champion. One of the following takes will be seen as a very unfavorable outlook by most fans.
Lets acknowledge Alabama, Clemson, and Ohio State as locks for the playoff (although, many will say the only true lock is Alabama). This forces the committee to choose from Penn State, Michigan, Washington, Oklahoma, Ok State, Colorado, and USC for the sacred fourth and final spot. Now let's take it one step forward and think Penn State gets slotted in based off of their resume. This sets up the Nittany Lions on a semifinal date with no. 1 Alabama. Many good things can come from making the playoff and is a great selling point to future recruits. But even with all the hype surrounding the playoff and recruiting success to following a playoff appearance, do you really want to see the Nittany Lions vs the Crimson Tide? Take the idea of the playoff out of the picture for a second. Do you genuinely want to see Penn State match up against Alabama?! Reality check-Alabama is a great football team and is putting up historical numbers this year on the defensive end. They have embarrassed several teams this year and in also last year's playoff when they took on Michigan State. Penn State is a good team and in my own unbiased opinion, a very good team and deserves to be in the playoff with a win over Wisconsin (even though I believe Michigan is much better). However against Alabama, Penn State would most likely get blown out and leave the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl or Playstation Fiesta Bowl 11-3 for the year with a Big Ten Championship and wins over both Wisconsin and Ohio State as essentially the only physical rewards. Yes, a Playoff berth sends Penn State into a realm where most people never imagined this team being in for a very long time, so the progress would be monumental. For as good as this sounds and the momentum built for the program, there are better opportunities for the blue and white. So is Penn State more fit for not making the playoff?
Here's why everyone should still be happy in Happy Valley if Penn State gets left out of the playoff. Say the committee does choose to give the nod to Washington or Michigan into the playoff, Penn State will most likely head to the Rose Bowl or at worst the Cotton Bowl. Respectively in each, opponents will include USC/Colorado and Western Michigan, all very good teams and will present specific challenges to the Nittany Lions. However, the difference between these scenarios is the chances of winning. And realistically, the momentum a program gains from winning over losing its last game is tremendous. Penn State can carry the same, if not more, importance and recruiting weight if they made the playoff and lost to Alabama or walked away Rose Bowl Champions over USC or Colorado. That is true. And according to Kirby Hocutt, "In the eyes of the committee, Ohio State and Penn State aren't close"-I believe this is extremely false when you consider the two would have the same amount of wins, Penn State wins the division and conference that Ohio State and Michigan are in, and holds the head to head over OSU- so this could be the more realistic outcome. I'm not here to undermine everything that comes with an opportunity at the playoff or talent of this team and what they have accomplished, but as a Penn State fan, you shouldn't be broken hearted seeing Penn State on the outside looking in.
So I plead to Nittany Nation; For the hype of Dear Old State, cheer against Washington and for the College Football Playoff Committee to place a large value on a conference championship. But if you're thinking like I am for the future of Dear Old State, cheer for a win in the Rose Bowl and let Michigan get 'Bama.