Penn State Ranked 12th In Coaches' Poll, And Now The Real Season Begins

STATE COLLEGE, PA - OCTOBER 29: Drew Astorino #28 of the Penn State Nittany Lions celebrates after tackling Darius Millines #15 of the Illinois Fighting Illini during the game on October 29, 2011 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

So full disclosure: it's hard to find this very compelling right now given this indescribable Sandusky thing, but at some point the show must go on, and maybe it's best to compartmentalize the current team and their efforts with a story that isn't just about sports anymore.  That being said, the football team continues their improbably path, although here's what a great defense and backloaded schedule will get you in the USA Today Coaches' Poll:

12. Penn State (from 15)

13. Michigan State (from 16)

14. Wisconsin (from 17)

17. Nebraska (from 9)

21. Michigan (from 13)

No one bought the Michigan-Iowa line when it came out around 3, but that's why those things happen.  They continue their pattern of beating the hell out of overmatched schools, knocking around Notre Dame (5 of last 6) and generally winning in September, but then not actually being a very good football team.

Meanwhile Ohio State steadily gets their identity, Michigan State rebounds, and Wisconsin scores 48 or more for the sixth time this season. And Oh Boy Nebraska; just when it looked like they were in the driver seat in their freshman year, it turns out the Northwestern curse over Iowa extends much further into the plains than anyone thought.

And the projected BCS standings?  Penn State leads the conference there as well.

1. LSU, 2. Oklahoma State, 3. Alabama, 4. Stanford, 5. Boise State, 6. Oklahoma, 7. Arkansas, 8. Oregon, 9. Clemson, 10. Virginia Tech, 11. Houston, 12. Penn State, 13. Kansas State, 14. South Carolina, 15. Michigan State.

The Alabama loss hurts but probably not very much if they do in fact remain at three.  Michigan's loss helps in the computers since they're off the schedule.  

LSU & Alabama, Ok St. & Oklahoma and potentially Stanford seem to have the marked cornered at the top -- although check out 2007 for a lesson in how valuable that is with this much football to play -- along with two of the at large bids.  That leaves the Big Ten, Pac 12, ACC and Houston to fight it out over the remaining two spots.  

Penn State sits on top of the Big Ten at Sagarin's digs, but man does his Predictor hate it when you win like this.

Big Ten Standings. 

Penn State 5-0 (3-0)
Ohio State 3-2 (3-0)
Wisconsin 3-2 (2-1)
Purdue 2-3 (1-2)
Illinois 2-3 (1-3)
Indiana 0-6 (0-4)

Michigan State 4-1 (2-1)
Iowa 3-2 (2-1)
Nebraska 3-2 (2-1)
Michigan 3-2 (2-2)
Minnesota 1-4(1-3)
Northwestern 2-4 (1-2)

We're not tracking divisional records in parenthesis because, frankly, this thing is a mess.  Your tiebreakers go like this:

1. Conference record
2. Head-to-head record
3. Record within the division
4. BCS ranking

With some wrinkles you may be interested in, specifically if teams are within one spot in the BCS standings, which isn't out of the realm of possibilities now that we have three right in a row in the Coaches' Poll.

The Roadmap To Indy. The first option is pretty simple: lose no more than once, and to anyone. Of course this season is so wacky Wisconsin could lose to Illinois, Ohio State to Michigan, and then the bar gets even lower.  

The Mathlete says Penn State has a slight edge to hold on over Wisconsin.  The way things line up both over there and on the more qualitative end, the move seem to be to kick Nebraska while they're fans are leaving early against Northwestern, then sell out against an Ohio State team committed to a true freshman quarterback.

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