How Penn State can still get to the Rose Bowl

Rose Bowl chances for Penn State football got a big boost last weekend (thanks Iowa!).

Just like that, Penn State football is back in the discussion for the Rose Bowl.

A week ago it looked like either the Outback Bowl or the College Football Playoff, but no in-between. The New Year’s Six picture is very crowded and the Citrus Bowl would likely pass on Penn State due to their agreement with the Big Ten.

With Minnesota’s loss in Iowa City last week, Penn State is the second-highest ranked Big Ten team again. The Nittany Lions are not quite a lock for the Rose Bowl, but if the following sequence of events plays out and nothing 2007-esque happens, Penn State will be in Pasadena for New Year’s Day:

If Penn State loses to Ohio State:

  1. Penn State would drop behind Minnesota and maybe Michigan in the CFP ranking.
  2. Penn State beats Rutgers the next week. Wisconsin beats Minnesota and eliminates the Gophers from the Rose Bowl conversation.
  3. Ohio State beats Michigan. Penn State jumps Michigan and Minnesota in the ranking if they weren’t already ahead, but Wisconsin is ranked slightly ahead of Penn State.
  4. In the Big Ten Championship game, Ohio State beats Wisconsin. Wisconsin, with three conference losses, drops behind Penn State in the ranking and PSU becomes the second-highest ranked Big Ten team.
  5. Since the Big Ten champion (Ohio State) would go to the playoff, the second-highest ranked Big Ten team (Penn State) would take their place in the Rose Bowl.

Essentially, according to this sequence, this Penn State football team just needs to beat Rutgers. Ohio State would beat everyone else out of the Rose Bowl.

Of course, if Penn State beats Ohio State they’ll be in the playoff conversation again but they would get no less than an NY6 bowl.

The Orange Bowl and Cotton Bowl are still technically on the table, but Penn State’s path to an at-large bid is very unlikely right now. The SEC should have four teams going to NY6 bowls. The Pac-12 should have two. If Baylor gets revenge on the Sooners in the Big 12 Championship game, there’d be two Big 12 teams in NY6 bowls.

Then there has to be an ACC team in the Orange Bowl if it isn’t Clemson. The highest-ranked Group of Five teams would get an automatic invitation to either the Orange or Cotton Bowl. So it’s messy right now. But due to the Big Ten’s agreement with the Rose Bowl, that one is a possibility for Penn State again.

So Penn State football fans should hold off on any Tampa plans for now.

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