If we're eligible, does it really matter who's ranked ahead of us?
Of course not. Iowa is ranked #13, Penn State is ranked #14, all of it is irrelevant. The BCS has two functions: to try and pick the two most deserving teams that will be allowed a shot at their crystal ball, and making money off of everyone else.
The best way to make money is not to pick the next best 10 teams, but to pick the teams with the best following who the general public believes will compete with their pairing. Remember none of these games matter anyway: nothing can be won or lost in any game that isn't the BCS MNC. It's always fun to win on a big stage, but the games are not a means to some kind of end.
So, if you want to be a purist about it, you have to pick the team with a bigger following and better TV ratings.
(It's worth noting that Iowa has a strong fan base and even buy their tickets. The point isn't one that tears down the Hawkeyes, but it's hard to defend the idea that Iowa will somehow make a bowl more money than Penn State if both teams finish with two losses.)
Let's get ethical: does Penn State even deserve a shot?
There are two standards here: one is the respect and aura we've built around the term "BCS team." Based on our performance against Iowa and Ohio State, I would probably agree with you in saying this team is not a typical BCS powerhouse.
But this is not a typical year. Outside of the top three to five teams, no one is doing anything.
So the real question is this: is Penn State one of the top 12 teams after you take into account the two-team-per rule?
It depends. Penn State lacks a quality win outside of Temple (other receiving votes woo wooo), but: (1) they also haven't lost to North Carolina State (2) he team has zero close calls against mid-majors and (3) their losses are to top 15 teams.
All three of those things are not true about Wisconsin, Iowa, Virginia Tech, Boise State and Pitt.
Penn State's best asset is that they don't currently have any stupid losses. I know that doesn't seem like much, but it's a strange year.
You don't have to be proud of it or pretend this is some kind of legendary effort, but the landscape is important.
Here is the real question: can we get picked ahead of Iowa?
And really there is no legit answer for this. Iowa has now lost their last two games. Stanzi is out and will likely be rusty at best in a bowl game. They lost to jNW, which should always be noted.
But they beat Penn State.
So what do you do?
Couldn't this all be a worthless and borderline embarrassing discussion?
You bet. Penn State is just a 3.5 point favorite against Michigan State this weekend. Iowa and Ohio State appear to be in much more comfortable games (favored by 9.5 and 12.5, respectively). This weekend is no sure thing.