Calculating Penn State football wins needed for College Football at-large bid

With the expanded 12-team CFP, Penn State could just need another 10-win season out of James Franklin to get an at-large selection and have a shot at the national title.
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin
Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin / David Reginek-USA TODAY Sports

The main criticism over 10 years of the James Franklin era has been Penn State’s inability to grab one of the four spots in the College Football Playoff. Still, Franklin has won at least 10 games in five of those years, and with the CFP expanding to 12 teams this year that should be enough for the Nittany Lions to grab an at-large bid. 

Ohio State and Michigan have dominated the Big Ten and now the additions of Washington and Oregon add two more CFP contenders to the loaded league, but that also gives teams like Penn State a bit more leeway to survive losses and stay in the hunt for a national championship. 

According to a graphic from Kelley Ford, of, Penn State only needs 10 wins to be in the CFP conversation. 

Where will 10 wins come from for Penn State in 2024

After last season’s second-half dominance, winning the game without attempting a pass, the Nittany Lions will be happy to get a year off from their rivalry with Michigan. The Wolverines won’t be as strong after losing their head coach and plenty of talent to the NFL, but James Franklin still must be happy to avoid the Wolverines. 

Penn State also has the good fortune of avoiding Oregon, so the Nittany Lions should be favored in all but one game in 2024. Getting to seven wins should be no problem:

  • vs. Bowling Green
  • vs. Kent State
  • vs. Illinois
  • vs. UCLA
  • at Purdue
  • at Minnesota
  • vs. Maryland

These next three games on the schedule should get the Franklin to 10 wins for the sixth time since taking over in Happy Valley. However, these road trips won’t be easy. 

  • at West Virginia
  • at USC
  • at Wisconsin

That has Penn State at 10 wins, which gets the team in consideration for a CFP spot, but without a marquee victory on its resume, the Nittany Lions would need to take down either Ohio State or Washington at home. Penn State hosts those two Big Ten contenders in back-to-back weeks.