I mean this in the nicest way possible - Penn State doesn’t deserve a New Year’s Day bowl.
Not this year.
Penn State is 7-5 on the season, having lost to every team above it in the East, plus Illinois. Does that sound like New Year’s Day quality to you?
Sure, they were competitive in their losses. They were a rub route away from upsetting Michigan, who is currently set to play Georgia in the first round of the playoffs.
They were a snap infraction away from (potentially) upsetting Ohio State, who is headed to the Rose Bowl.
They were a blizzard away from taking down Michigan State, on their way to the Peach Bowl.
They were a backup quarterback away from defeating Iowa, the B1G West champs, who are headed to the Citrus Bowl.
But ya know what? They lost all the same. Moral victories aren’t actual victories.
But let’s consider Penn State’s competition for the Outback Bowl, the best bowl for the conference after the Citrus Bowl.
Purdue, Minnesota, and Wisconsin are all 8-4, one win better than Penn State.
Purdue took down Iowa and Michigan State, both teams ranked in the top 5.
Minnesota upset Wisconsin, keeping them from the B1G West crown.
Wisconsin defeated Iowa, as well as Purdue.
Surely any one of those teams have impressive resumes that would earn them the Outback Bowl ahead of Penn State.
Here’s the thing - none of them played Penn State’s schedule.
From the East, Wisconsin played Michigan, Rutgers, and PSU, going 1-2 in those games.
Purdue played Michigan State, Ohio State, and Indiana, going 2-1 in those games.
Minnesota played Ohio State, Maryland, and Indiana, going 2-1 in those games.
None of those teams played all three of Ohio State, Michigan State, and Michigan.
I dare say that if Penn State swapped schedules with all of those teams, they would be no better than 7-5 themselves, and in fact may be 6-6 or worse. Or if they were in fact 7-5, there would be a few blowout losses sprinkled in.
Plus, and you’ll have to bear with me on this seemingly unbelievable fact: money talks.
Penn State brings the bacon wherever it goes. It’s a national brand, with a huge fanbase that travels exceptionally well.
So if you were the Outback Bowl, and you had four teams that were all similar in terms of record, but one team was a) way more competitive against its schedule than the rest, and b) was a guaranteed cash cow, whom would you take?
So given the 7-5 season, the disappointing losses, the “what ifs” we all had to endure over the course of the year, I’ll absolutely take a New Year’s Day bowl. Penn State and its fans deserve it.