After finding themselves down 21-0, and with Sean Clifford out with an injury, the Lions fought furiously back to make it 21-17. OSU managed a touchdown to put them up 28-17, and the teams traded defensive blows until the final whistle blew.
Marking Penn State’s second (and likely last) loss of the regular season, the Lions will now essentially await their postseason fate.
Will they make a New Year’s Six bowl? Could they head to the Rose? What about the Orange or Cotton?
One of the problems facing PSU is (was) the Pac-12. Both Oregon and Utah were 1-loss teams, and seemed destined for a collision course in the Pac-12 championship game, where a 1-loss champ could possibly make the playoff, leaving a 2-loss runner-up potentially snapping up an at-large bid. Or, even worse, if the 1-loss champ were to be left out of the playoffs, meaning two Pac-12 teams took NY6 bids.
But then the improbable happened.
#6 Oregon went to Tempe, AZ to take on 5-loss Arizona State in a game where the Ducks were 13.5-point favorites. And the Ducks found themselves in a fight.
After going up 7-0 in the first, ASU piled on the points, at one time making it 24-7 in the fourth quarter. Oregon finally responded, closing to 24-21, and then 31-28. Following a failed onside kick, ASU was able to run out the clock, giving the Ducks their second loss of the season, and putting the kibosh on any playoff hopes.
What to make of this?
Quite simply, sometimes good - even elite - teams lose to teams they “shouldn’t”.
Georgia, currently sitting at #4 in the playoff rankings, heading to the SEC championship game, lost earlier this year to 4-7 South Carolina.
Wisconsin, currently sitting at #12 in the playoff rankings, needing to beat #10 Minnesota to head to the B1G championship game, lost earlier this year to 6-5 Illinois.
Oklahoma, currently sitting at #9 in the playoff rankings, heading to the Big 12 championship game, lost earlier this year to 7-4 Kansas State.
Sometimes, good teams just lose games they aren’t supposed to. It’s the nature of college football, where young players and teams can go out and flop. Perhaps they were looking ahead at the next opponent. Perhaps their opponent just came off a bye week and had some new wrinkles. Perhaps it was a rivalry game, where all of the record books can be thrown out.
For whatever reason, chaos often descends on college football, where the “favorites” lose games, and the national scene changes overnight.
For all of that, let’s just enjoy that Penn State has beaten who they were supposed to beat so far this season. No collapses against an upstart Maryland team, for instance. Or letdowns against Michigan State or Indiana.
Other than two road losses to two ranked, undefeated teams, the Lions have taken care of business.
And now we wait to see just where the Penn State football team will be spending its holidays.