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Penn State’s Rooting Interests As The Season Comes To A Close

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Can the Nittany Lions reach a New Years Six bowl?

Penn State Nittany Lions head coach James Franklin during the game against the Maryland Terrapins at Capital One Field at Maryland Stadium. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

As we close in on the end of the regular season, there's one tidbit of information that continues to amaze me as the days go by: If Penn State is able to win out and finish with a 9-3 record, there’s precedent that they could make their way into the New Year’s Six, depending on how everything shakes out.

An even juicier tidbit of information I came across in the past couple of weeks: The Big Ten divisional tiebreaker scenarios stipulate that, if multiple teams finish with the same conference record, a certain number of criteria are applied until there are only two teams tied, at which point head to head comes into play. Namely:

1. The records of the three (or more) tied teams will be compared based on winning percentage in games between the tied teams.
(a) Example: East 1 is 2-0 in games between the tied teams with wins over East 2 and 3 - East 1 would be the representative.

What does that mean? Well, if a miracle happens, Penn State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Ohio State could end up with a 6-3 conference record at the end of the season. Michigan State and Penn State would have a 2-1 record over the whole group, and Penn State would have beaten Michigan State. Penn State is the Big Ten East representative in the conference championship game!

Of course the chances of that happening are slim to none, but here at Black Shoe Diaries we believe in miracles! So for the next few weeks, if applicable, we will outline the scenarios that need to come into play in order for either of these outcomes to become a reality. A few things to keep in mind:

  1. Either scenario is impossible without Penn State winning the rest of their games. If the Lions lose this weekend, this article would have been published once. But, for as long as Penn State keeps winning, there is still a chance that a New Years Six bid, or even a Big Ten Championship Game bid, is on the line.
  2. Chaos has to happen. Unfortunately, the Lions gave up control of their destiny the minute they lost to Illinois. A 10-2 Penn State team has a much easier time making a case for a top 12 ranking than a 9-3 team, thus, we need pandemonium to continue to happen across the sport as the Lions keep winning.

With that out of the way, let’s get to cheering!

Scenario No. 1: The Long Shot

In order for Penn State to win the Big Ten East, two things must happen.

  1. As stated above, Penn State has to win out
  2. Also, Ohio State has to lose out.
  3. Michigan and Michigan State need to lose two of their next three games.

Because the schedule is quite compressed to end the season, these teams are all playing each other, with the exception of Ohio State, who still plays Purdue, and Michigan/Michigan State, who still play Maryland. And, of course, Penn State has Rutgers sandwiched between the Mitten schools.

So, for this weekend, we are Purdue and Maryland fans! To keep the dream alive, The Boilers need to find magic once more, and the Terrapins need to continue the bleeding for the Spartans.

Scenario No. 2: The Lesser Long Shot

Reaching a New Year’s Six game, on the other hand, does not require for nearly impossible scenarios to happen. All they require is a little bit of chaos with teams ranked ahead of the Lions, but some of that chaos is baked in. This week, we’re rooting for the following:

  1. A Cincinnati blowout. We want Cincinnati in the playoff, because it frees up a spot in the rest of the New Year’s Six games. As of right now, the Bearcats have been living on the danger zone, and they need to get out a soon as possible.
  2. New Mexico State. We all know the Aggies aren’t going to beat Alabama. However, what they can do is score some points on the Tide. If they can do that, Alabama starts to look even more mortal, and the committee might finally kick them out of the top four. Why is that important? Because Two SEC teams making the playoff means more Power 5 teams taking New Year’s Six spots. We don’t want that.
  3. Oklahoma. The Sugar Bowl is going to take a representative from the SEC and another one from the Big 12. As it stands today, that spot is Oklahoma’s to lose. If the Sooners were to get upset, it would prop up another Big 12 team into a New Year’s Six spot, and, well, we don't want that.
  4. Auburn. Penn State beat Auburn. Auburn already has three losses, so they’re no threat to win the SEC. But in a world where the Tigers and Nittany Lions are potentially bidding against each other for an at large bid, the head to head win will matter.
  5. Wisconsin. Same as above, except the championship game bit. The Badgers have the West all but locked up already.
  6. LSU. Arkansas backed their way into the College Football Playoff top 25 after beating previously ranked Mississippi State. LSU, with a losing record, is not going to get overinflated credit for beating a ranked team. You know who would, though? Alabama, who plays the Razorbacks in a week.
  7. TCU. With Oklahoma State sitting at No. 10, the chances that they finish high enough to take up another New Year’s Six spot are incredibly high. Now, if TCU were to guarantee a 2-loss season for the Pokes, that case becomes harder to make.

That’s it for this week. A number of these don’t require too much craziness, but, if Penn State wants to hear its name called for a New Year’s Six bid, things have to break just right.