Penn State needs some help to reach a New Year’s 6 bowl game following the latest release of the College Football Playoff rankings. But fortunately for the Lions, help is out there.
Penn State (9-2) remained at No. 11 in Week 4 of the CFP rankings, with four SEC teams still ahead of it. That includes No. 10 Tennessee, which lost 63-28 to South Carolina last week and also lost quarterback Hendon Hooker with an ACL tear.
That ranking is significant to Penn State’s opportunity to play in the Orange or Cotton bowls. The Rose Bowl remains a possibility if Michigan and Ohio State qualify for the playoff.
Here’s an updated look at Penn State’s bowl options following the Nov. 22 rankings update.
- When: Jan. 2
- Where: Pasadena, California
- Matchup: Big Ten vs. Pac-12
- What to Watch: To reach the Rose Bowl, Penn State needs Ohio State and Michigan in the playoff. That possibility improved with South Carolina’s knockout of Tennessee, which fell to No. 10 and out of playoff contention. To help solidify this path, Penn State now could use losses by TCU and/or USC in the coming weeks. And no LSU upset of Georgia in the SEC title game. As of now, the committee values Ohio State and Michigan’s resumes over TCU’s. “We look at [TCU’s] ability to come back in games where, to a large degree, Ohio State and Michigan have not,” CFP committee chair Boo Corrigan said. That might come into play if Michigan and Ohio State turn in a thriller Saturday.
- When: Dec. 30
- Where: Miami Gardens, Florida
- Matchup: ACC vs. the highest-ranked team from the SEC/Big Ten/Notre Dame
- What to Watch: The committee’s decision this week to rank Tennessee above Penn State is significant. If the Vols win their regular-season finale and remain ahead of the Lions, they would be positioned for an Orange Bowl bid. Even the season-ending injury to Hooker didn’t change the committee’s decision. “It’s something that we did all acknowledge in the room, but it wasn’t something that drove us to a different conclusion,” Corrigan said of Tennessee’s ranking. It’s also significant that LSU sits at No. 5, which means the committee might position the Tigers to stay above Penn State if they lose a close game to Georgia. Penn State can’t go to the Orange Bowl with three SEC teams above it, unless two are in the playoff.
- When: Jan. 2
- Where: Arlington, Texas
- Matchup: Highest-ranked at-large vs. highest-ranked Group of Five team
- What to Watch: Tennessee sitting above Penn State lowered the Lions’ Cotton Bowl chances as well. At least for now. Penn State needs to be the highest-ranked at-large team in two weeks to return to the Cotton Bowl. Instead, that could be Tennessee, or perhaps USC if it finishes 11-2 with a loss to Oregon in the Pac-12 title game. That’s fluid, though, considering the potential for upsets the next two weeks. A Cotton Bowl bid also presumes one Big Ten team in the playoff.
- When: Jan 2
- Where: Orlando
- Matchup: Big Ten vs. SEC
- What to Watch: Tennessee’s ranking makes this destination more likely for Penn State. Again, at least for now. James Franklin will be rooting for his former team, Vanderbilt, to upset Tennessee this weekend. Ole Miss is a possible opponent, which could change if Lane Kiffin leaves for Auburn.
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Penn State hosts Michigan State on Saturday for Senior Day. Kickoff is scheduled for 4 p.m. ET on FS1.
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