Well, Penn State is officially out of the College Football Playoff hunt. But that doesn’t mean that the other games across the country don’t impact Penn State. With the Nittany Lions having a 6-2 record, one of the easiest Power 5 schedules remaining, and a No. 15 ranking in the College Football ranking, the Nittany Lions now re-shift their focus to a New Year’s Six bid.
It goes without saying, but Penn State should basically be locked into a College Football Playoff spot if it goes 4-0 against Indiana, Maryland, Rutgers, and Michigan State. They’ll be 10-2, and should be knocking on the door of a Top 10 ranking — if not, actually being inside the house.
With that being the case, let’s take a look at some games that would best help the Nittany Lions.
Michigan State over No. 16 Illinois
Let’s start with a Big Ten matchup. Penn State should be rooting for this: winner of the Big Ten East goes to the College Football Playoff, while the second place team (Michigan or Ohio State) goes to the Rose Bowl. That would likely lead to one spot available in the NY6, which should be Penn State provided that Illinois — which currently sits 7-1 — has three losses. Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, the Illini have a road trip to Ann Abor on November 19, meaning that they are extremely likely to have two losses heading into the Big Ten Championship.
Still, the easiest and best outcome is for Illinois to lose as much as possible before then, with already three-loss Purdue in their place instead. Those two play next week, but a Sparty win this week certainly wouldn’t hurt things.
No. 6 Alabama over No. 10 LSU
If there’s one thing we’ve learned the last few years, it’s that the College Football Playoff committee loves themselves some SEC programs. If you are a Penn State fan, you are fine with Alabama, Georgia, and Tennessee doing their thing, but you want the other NY6 threats — Ole Miss and these LSU Tigers — to certainly have more than two losses. Roll Tide this week against LSU, and Roll Tide next week against Ole Miss.
No. 24 Texas over No. 13 Kansas State; Kansas over No. 18 Oklahoma State
As has been the case all year, Penn State fans should want chaos in the Big 12 outside of TCU. Right now, there are only two teams left with 6-2 records: Oklahoma State and Kansas State. Each of those teams losing would make it the path for Penn State much easier.
Virginia over No. 17 North Carolina
This is extremely unlikely given that Virginia is horrible, but an additional loss for the Tar Heels before the ACC Championship would be the best case scenario. They sit at 7-1 right now, and with ranked matchups on the docket with No. 21 Wake Forest and No. 22 NC State, they have the potential to eventually jump Penn State. Again not the most paramount thing, but as far as rooting goes, it’s best for the Nittany Lions if UNC loses at least one more time in the regular season.
The Pac-12 is a tough one to decipher because you have No. 8 Oregon (7-1), No. 9 USC (7-1), No. 12 UCLA (7-1), and No. 14 Utah (6-2) all still truly in the mix. Utah beat USC, but they still have to play Oregon. USC doesn’t have to play Oregon, but they have to play UCLA. UCLA beat Utah, but lost to Oregon.
So yes, certainly root for Arizona over Utah, Arizona State over UCLA, and Cal over USC this Saturday, but this thing could play out a whole bunch of ways the next couple weeks.