Bowl Scenarios: An Updated Penn State Fan's Rooting Guide

By John Morgan on November 27, 2019 at 8:30 am
Oct 19, 2019; University Park, PA, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions cheerleaders engage with the fans prior to the game against the Michigan Wolverines at Beaver Stadium.
Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports
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After the Minnesota loss, I wrote some scenarios that Penn State fans should root for depending on which bowl game is your preference. With the latest College Football Playoff rankings, things are a little clearer for the Nittany Lions, who now sit at No. 10. Here are the most likely scenarios that will determine which bowl game the Nittany Lions will attend.

*Please note all of these scenarios are under the assumption Penn State beats Rutgers this weekend. Should that not happen, please be sure to check out Don't @ Me next week.

College Football Playoff

Penn State has virtually no chance of making this after the loss to Ohio State. Even with total chaos in the next two weeks, the chances hover right around zero because the big underdogs would need to work some magic. There is still plenty to watch as an outsider, but assuming teams hold serve this weekend, it will come down to LSU, Ohio State, Clemson, Utah, Alabama, Oklahoma, and maybe Baylor.

Rose Bowl

The Rose Bowl is still in play for the Nittany Lions, but they will once again need some help. Here are the teams in contention for Pasadena, and what would need to happen for the Lions to return to the Granddaddy of Them All.

Full disclosure, this is my preference because not only is it a prestigious bowl game, but it would likely mean either an opponent they have never played before, or one they haven't seen since January 1, 1995.

Big Ten
Team Scenario
Penn State The Nittany Lions must take care of business Saturday against Rutgers and finish the season at 10-2.
Ohio State Penn State fans will want to see Ohio State beat Michigan and then go on to win the Big Ten Championship game against either WIsconsin or Minnesota. There is a chance the Buckeyes could still make the playoff with one loss, but that would mean that either Michigan, Minnesota or Wisconsin is beating them, and that would in turn hurt Penn State’s chances to head for Pasadena.
Michigan Though it could hurt the resume, Penn State fans would want to see the Wolverines lose to Ohio State.
Minnesota Currently ranked No. 8, the Golden Gophers have the head-to-head against Penn State, and have become the Cinderella story of the Big Ten. If Minnesota can beat Wisconsin, they would head to Indianapolis with one loss to take on Ohio State. If they would lose in that game, they would sit at 11-2, and likely get the invitation to Pasadena over Penn State with that head-to-head win. If Penn State is to make the Rose Bowl, Minnesota losing to Wisconsin would be ideal.
Wisconsin The No. 12 Badgers have two losses already, but if they can beat Minnesota, they would then represent the Big Ten West in Indy. They would face off again against Ohio State. Should they lose, they would then be saddled with their third loss which would keep them below Penn State.

New Year’s Six

Like we had mentioned a few weeks back, there are only two spots that the Nittany Lions could end up: Miami or Dallas. Tuesday night's rankings really helped Penn State's chances to end up in the Orange Bowl. The Nittany Lions stayed ahead of Florida. That is big since the Orange Bowl is contractually obligated to take the highest-ranked team between Notre Dame, the Big Ten and the SEC. If LSU and a second SEC team were to make the playoff, that would mean the third SEC team would end up in the Sugar Bow, likely landing Penn State in Miami against an ACC representative. I will not address Notre Dame yet because they are No. 16 and face Stanford this weekend.

The Cotton Bowl is also in play, but much of that will be determined based on what happens with Oklahoma and Baylor in the Big 12 Championship.

The Others
Team Scenario
LSU Win out and make the playoff. The SEC slot is an automatic so just let them continue to roll.
Alabama If the Crimson Tide wins this weekend and are left out of the playoff at 11-1, they would likely head to the Sugar or Orange Bowl. Alabama heads to Auburn Saturday as only a three-point favorite. Even with a loss, it’s hard to imagine that the committee would rank them below Penn State. As dreadful as it may be to fans, two SEC teams in the CFP is good for a NY6 slot, and additionally, an Auburn win could boost Florida's resume.
Georgia The Bulldogs could find themselves in the playoff if they can win the SEC Championship game. A loss in that game to LSU, and they too would be looking at the Sugar Bowl . The Orange is in play for the same reasons listed for Alabama. Georgia faces Georgia Tech this weekend.
Florida The Gators sitting behind Penn State with a 9-2 record was a setback in their hopes for a NY6 bid. They face Florida State this weekend, and with a win, will need some help to pass Penn State. As unlikely as it may be, Penn State fans should pull for the Seminoles to pull off the major upset if the Nittany Lions were to miss out on the Rose Bowl. It may be a lost cause, but better safe than sorry.
Oklahoma The Sooners likely will have little bearing on where Penn State will end up. They will play Baylor in the Big 12 title game With a win, Oklahoma will find itself bidding for a playoff spot. They will need to win at Oklahoma State this weekend as well, and head into that game as a 14.5 point favorite. Should Bedlam prevail and the Sooners lose, but go onto beat Baylor in the conference championship, they would likely end up in the Sugar Bowl.
Baylor Baylor is 10-1 and ranked No. 9 as they head to Kansas this weekend as a 14-point favorite. If they win that game and lose in the title game, they would play in the Sugar Bowl, assuming Oklahoma ends up in the playoff. Should they win this week and lose to Oklahoma, they could fall back behind Penn State and boost Penn State's chances at a NY6 in either the Orange or the Cotton Bowl.
Utah The No. 6 Utes face Colorado this weekend as heavy favorites. They will meet Oregon in the Pac-12 title game if they can beat the Buffs. If they handle the Ducks, they would have a strong case to make the College Football Playoff. Oregon dropped to No. 14, however, and that may end up hurting Utah's final resume should they win out. If they were to lose to Oregon, they would be in the running for the Cotton Bowl, but that would come down to the final ranking, so it’s hard to determine how far they would fall if they lost in the conference championship game.
Oregon The Ducks lost a tough game to Arizona State which killed any chance of them making the playoff. If the Ducks can win the Pac-12 title game, they would be heading to Pasadena, but should they lose, they would possibly be looking at the Alamo Bowl.
Clemson Clemson has no impact on Penn State when it comes to a NY6 Bowl game. If they somehow didn't make the College Football Playoff, they would end up in the Orange Bowl as the ACC representative where they could end up being the Nittany Lions opponents. 

Overall, the Tuesday night rankings were about the best case scenario for Penn State getting into the Rose Bowl or a New Year's Six Bowl. If the Rose Bowl doesn't happen, they would need to hold off Florida in the final rankings to secure a spot in the NY6. Penn State would be well-served with a convincing win over lowly Rutgers this weekend.

As a recap, here is who Nittany Lions fans should root for to end up in one of those bowl games.

  • Wisconsin
  • The No. 1 team that received a boost after beating Penn State
  • Alabama (sigh)
  • Georgia (sigh)
  • Florida State
  • Kansas
  • Oklahoma State

Now, the worst case scenario for Penn State is the Outback Bowl, but that's not worth getting into at this moment. Check back next week as we'll take another look prior the conference championship games.

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