Many believed that Penn State squandered any shot at the playoffs by losing to Ohio State just over a week ago, myself included. The Lions hung tough, but were ultimately outlasted by a team whose depth is chock full of blue chip recruits. This is a rebuilding year, and yet PSU hung tough, only losing by one point to a team many consider to be the best in the Big Ten.
With that loss, Penn State dropped to #11 in the AP Poll. A decent bowl game was more or less assured, but the Lions want to make the playoffs. Their only hope to do that? Win out, and hope for chaos.
Well, just a week later and the Lions haven’t yet had a chance to get back to their winning ways as they were on a bye week, but the second half of that equation kicked in with full force.
#5 LSU was toppled by #22 Florida.
#7 Oklahoma got upended by #19 Texas.
#8 Auburn was smoked by unranked Mississippi State.
And just like that, a week after losing 27-26 as the #9 team in the country, the Lions find themselves sitting at #8. And they didn’t even have to lift a finger.
This is part of what makes college football so special and unique. The NFL has a very clear cut set of parameters to make the playoffs. Everyone starts from the same spot - 0-0 - and then must play 16 games against a balanced slate of opponents. Opponents who are all bound by the same salary cap. Opponents whose rosters are full of paid professionals, who work at their craft year-round.
Upsets happen in the pros, to be sure. But they are seemingly fewer and farther between than in college.
College football experiences a huge amount of roster turnover for every team, every single year. One team can be heavy on experience, with all the starters nearly 22 years old - but those elder statesmen may be a bunch of former 3-star recruits. A team could be super young, but be a bunch of blue chippers. There’s a giant array of offensive and defensive schemes. And of course familiarity breeds contempt, as 8 or 9 games a year are against conference foes - teams that have played regularly for decades.
Yes sir, the chaos that happens in any given week of college football is a thing to behold. Last year, Penn State caught the wrong end of some chaos - after losing by one point to Ohio State, the Lions went on the road to play Michigan State. A monsoon struck the stadium, and after a rain delay lasting over 3 hours, the game resumed - and Penn State lost, effectively ending their playoff hopes.
The hope is still alive this season, but the Lions must win out.
Oh, and they’re going to need some more #chaos.