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Creeping the B1G, Championship Edition: Penn State’s Paths to Indianapolis

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With Iowa’s upset of No. 3 Michigan Saturday night, the path to the Big Ten Championship game became very real for Penn State.

Penn State Championship Game Predictions
Remember these crazy predictions from August? Cocaine IS a hell of a drug!

Why hello lovely folks, how’s your day going? Mine is going mighty fine. So fine, in fact, that I decided to push an extra edition of the Big Ten recap a day early. Why’s that, you ask? Well because The Miracle In Iowa City™, of course!

College Football Playoff Rankings

First of all, the carnage of this Saturday’s slate left a gaping hole in the top ten. Nos. 2 (Clemson, to Pitt), 3 (Michigan, to Iowa), 4 (Washington, to USC), 8 (Texas A&M, to Ole Miss), and 9 (Auburn, to Georgia) all lost, which opens the door for a few ranking possibilities:

  1. Ohio State will most likely move all the way up to number 2 or 3, depending on what the CFP committee wants to do with Louisville.
  2. Texas A&M and Auburn will most likely move out of the top 10, leaving Penn State to climb to at least 8th in the country.
  3. Wisconsin knocks at the door of the top four, potentially putting two Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff if everything breaks right.

Come Tuesday night, Penn State will likely find itself ranked at least 8th in the country, and depending on how harsh the CFP committee is on the losers this week, they could be as high as fifth. What a time to be alive!

Now to the fun part. With Iowa’s win over Michigan Saturday night, the path to the Big Ten Championship game is no longer a pipe dream for Penn State. There are very realistic scenarios for how the rest of the season can go, many of which include the lovely Nittany Lions in Indianapolis. Let’s begin!

Michigan Wins The East If

Michigan wins out

As happy as we are right now, Michigan still controls their own destiny the rest of the way. If Michigan wins out, it knocks Ohio State’s Big Ten East crown off, and the Wolverines finish 8-1 and potentially tied with Penn State at the top. The tiebreaker sends Michigan to Indianapolis. There are plenty of other ways this scenario plays out in theory, with Ohio State and Penn State losing another game before the final weekend of the year, but the bottom line here is that any scenario that involves Michigan winning out puts them in the championship game.

Everyone loses another game, Michigan beats Ohio State

If, by some miracle of [insert your deity here], Penn State, Ohio State, and Michigan end up losing another game along the way, everyone ends up tied at 7-2. By beating Ohio State, Michigan would have a 2-0 record against the other two teams at the top. That sends them to Indy. Like the above, there are variations of this scenario, with Ohio State and/or Penn State losing out, and Michigan only losing to Indiana. As long as all three teams lose at least one more, Michigan is in good shape.

Ohio State Wins The East If

Ohio State wins out, Penn State loses at least once

Ohio State, in a way, is in the same position as Penn State right now. They need another team they no longer play to lose another game if they want to win the East. The most realistic way for the Buckeyes to accomplish this goal is by winning out and hoping Penn State drops another one. That would put them at 8-1 in the conference, potentially holding the tiebreaker over Michigan, while Penn State would be kicked out of the running with another loss. Like before, there are other variations of this (Penn State and Michigan lose out, etc.), but those are just gravy for Ohio State at that point.

Everyone loses another game, Ohio State beats Michigan

Like the Wolverines above, Ohio State can still get themselves in the Championship game with another loss if things break the right way. If the Buckeyes were to lose to Michigan State next week, they’d need Penn State to lose again win the division. A three-way tie at 7-2, with Ohio State beating Michigan, would put Ohio State atop the division due to tiebreaker 5, the bane of Penn State’s existence. Everyone tied at 7-2 means the tiebreakers go all the way down to overall record, and Penn State would sit at 9-3 while everyone else sits at 10-2. Again, there are other scenarios that could play out here, like Michigan and/or Penn State losing out, but those are gravy.

Penn State Wins The East If

Penn State wins out, Michigan loses at least once

Like the other two above, Penn State puts themselves in great position to win the division if they win out. Like Ohio State, though, they’ll need extra help in the form of Michigan losing another game. And here’s the fun part: it doesn’t have to be against Ohio State. If Indiana, a team that’s been knocking on the door for a few years now under Kevin Wilson, finally manages to get over the hump against a top team (Michigan State doesn’t count), it doesn’t matter what happens in The Game. Penn State books its ticket to Indianapolis, and “The Game” becomes “a game.” Again, there are variations to this scenario where Ohio State also lose once, which puts Penn State in sole possession of the East, but those are gravy.

Penn State loses once, Ohio State loses once, Michigan loses out

This is probably the least likely scenario of them all, but it’s still worth mentioning because well, here we are. If Penn State were to drop another game, they’d need Ohio State to lose to Michigan State then beat Michigan, and they’d need Michigan to also lose to Indiana. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

And there you have it folks! Penn State is three wins away from representing the East division in the Big Ten Championship game. Hold on to your butts!