What to Expect for Penn State in the First College Football Playoff Rankings

By Nick Polak on November 5, 2019 at 9:30 am
Aug 31, 2019; Arlington, TX, USA; College Football Playoff National Championship Trophy on display prior to the game with the Auburn Tigers playing against the Oregon Ducks at AT&T Stadium.
Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports

On Tuesday night, the first round of the College Football Playoff rankings will finally be released. With the Nittany Lions sitting at 8-0 while having one of the nation's best strength-of-schedule rankings, and at least two ranked wins already in the bag, Penn State fans will likely be very pleased with their team's position in the first round of the rankings.

Now, the first rankings mean very little, but starting with a high spot can only help the Lions going forward for a final stretch that includes undefeated Minnesota and Ohio State, as well as a quickly-improving Indiana team.

In all likelihood, Penn State will be ranked as the No. 5 team in the country, just as they currently are in the AP Poll. If things go as they can be reasonably expected to, we will see some combination of Alabama, LSU, Ohio State, and Clemson sitting ahead of the Lions. In that scenario will Penn State have the right to be peeved at their outside position given the lack of quality opponents for Alabama and Clemson? Absolutely. The good news is that these first round of rankings are meant to be disrupted.

Contender Comparison
Team Avg. Opponent SP+ Rating* Ranked Wins (By AP Poll) Remaining Schedule
OHIO STATE (8-0) 34.2 Wisconsin (16)
Cincinnati (17)
vs. Maryland
@ Rutgers
vs. Penn State (5)
@ Michigan (14)
LSU (8-0) 41.8 Florida (10)
Auburn (12)
@ Alabama (2)
@ Ole Miss
vs. Arkansas
vs. Texas A&M
ALABAMA (8-0) 51.3 none vs. LSU (1)
@ Mississippi State
vs. Western Carolina
@ Auburn (12)
CLEMSON (9-0) 60.3 none @ NC State
vs. Wake Forest (22)
@ South Carolina
PENN STATE (8-0) 38 Michigan (14)
Iowa (18)
@ Minnesota (13)
vs. Indiana
@ Ohio State (3)
vs. Rutgers
OKLAHOMA (7-1) 54.2 none vs. Iowa State
@ Baylor (11)
vs. TCU
@ Oklahoma State
GEORGIA (7-1) 43.2 Florida (10)
Notre Dame (15)
vs. Missouri
@ Auburn (12)
vs. Texas A&M
@ Georgia Tech
OREGON (8-1) 44 none vs. Arizona
@ Arizona State
vs. Oregon State
UTAH (8-1) 45.1 none vs. UCLA
@ Arizona
vs. Colorado
BAYLOR (8-0) 56 Kansas State (20) vs. Oklahoma (9)
vs. Texas
@ Kansas

*Worst-two opponents by SP+ were removed for each team's schedule to account for FCS teams whose grades are compiled separately.

These are all the teams that are reasonably in contention for a playoff spot at this point. It would take a lot of chaos for any other teams (namely Auburn, Florida, and Minnesota) to really get involved with the race. That being said, far crazier things have happened.

But always keep in mind, the first round of rankings are made to be shaken up. Only once since the playoff's introductory season in 2014, have more than two of the teams ranked inside the initial top-four have finished inside the final top-four (2018: Clemson, Alabama, Notre Dame). So even if the Lions aren't within the first playoff group projection, there will still be plenty of ways they can move up.

We'll have plenty more to break down once the first round of the playoff rankings goes live on Tuesday night. Stick with Roar Lions Roar as the Nittany Lions continue to march towards a potential playoff berth.

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