After a chaotic weekend of college football, the latest College Football Playoff Rankings were released Tuesday night. With so many top teams suffering their first loss of the season, there was very little shakeup among the top five. Four Big Ten teams rank among the eight top contenders in this week’s poll.
The committee obviously views the conference very favorably with Penn State catapulting into the top ten last week despite an early season loss against Pittsburgh. However, with potential one-loss conference champions Clemson, Washington and West Virginia, would the committee place possible Big Ten Champion Wisconsin or Penn State into the playoff with two losses? Also, would the committee select one-loss Ohio State over potential Big Ten Champion Penn State, considering the Nittany Lions defeated the Buckeyes earlier this season?
Obviously, a lot needs to happen before these scenarios unfold. Typically, while engaging discussion, teams involved in these hypothetical situations sort themselves out. No one projected Michigan, Washington and Clemson all to lose last weekend. What’s to say the Wolverines don’t lose to Indiana this Saturday and beat the Buckeyes seven days later, essentially eliminating both teams? Also, Louisville and Clemson each have one loss this season. Based on each team’s play so far, they are expected to win all remaining contests, but there are no guarantees.
Additionally, in 2014 the College Football Playoff Committee demonstrated it can be unpredictable and puzzling. Remember, one-loss Big Ten Champion Ohio State jumped Big 12 frontrunners Baylor and TCU after a dominating win over Wisconsin in the conference title game. Jameis Winston’s Florida State Seminoles finished the season as the nation’s third ranked team despite posting the country’s only unbeaten record. Finally, despite ranking below TCU heading into the final week of competition, Baylor passed the Horned Frogs even though both teams had already completed their 2014 schedules.
It’s almost unimaginable that Penn State is a part of these conversations. After a 2-2 start and a sluggish first half against Minnesota, the Nittany Lions have surprised even the most optimistic of loyalists. For this year’s team to be in contention for a conference title and playoff berth is a major accomplishment unto itself. If Penn State can win its last two games and finish 10-2, the season will be a resounding success, regardless of rankings and out-of-town scores.
However, it won’t be easy. Penn State has an extremely depleted offensive line. Yes, the Lions should be able to beat downtrodden Rutgers and struggling Michigan State, but there are no guarantees. To this point, head coach James Franklin has done a terrific job managing distractions and emotions, but this is a new experience for him, his staff and entire roster.
Ultimately, dream scenarios do exist for Penn State and it’s exciting to hear the program mentioned among the nation’s top powers. Unfortunately, there are several significant hurdles to overcome, including uncontrollable factors within the program. Here are the most likely outcomes for the remainder of Penn State’s season:
– Penn State finishes 10-2 and Michigan 11-1: If Michigan wins its remaining conference games, the Nittany Lions will not represent the Big Ten East Division in Indianapolis. In this scenario, Penn State is likely guaranteed a berth in the Rose, Orange or Cotton Bowl.
– Penn State finishes 10-2 and Loses Big Ten Championship Game: A loss in any of the potential three remaining games for Penn State likely excludes the Lions from a New Years Six Bowl. In this scenario, Penn State captures the division title, plays in the conference title game, but ultimately ends up in either the Citrus, Outback or Holiday Bowl.
– Penn State finishes 10-2 and Wins Big Ten Championship Game: This is Penn State’s path to the College Football Playoff and could setup a potential nightmare for the College Football Playoff Committee. If there are multiple one-loss conference champions and one-loss Ohio State available for selection, would the committee choose Penn State as a second Big Ten representative in the playoff? Penn State could use some more help to clear a path to the playoff, yet it’s hard to imagine the committee selecting Ohio State and leaving out Penn State as a Big Ten Champion with a win over the Buckeyes on its schedule.
– Penn State finishes 9-3 or 8-4: With all the excitement around the program and two winnable games looming, this would be a very disappointing outcome to the season. However, very few experts predicted Penn State to win 9 games prior to the season.
College Football Playoff Picture:
|1||Alabama (10-0)||vs. Chattanooga||vs. Auburn||SEC Championship|
|2||Ohio State (9-1)||@ Michigan St.||vs. Michigan||B1G Championship|
|3||Michigan (9-1)||vs. Indiana||@ Ohio State||B1G Championship|
|4||Clemson (9-1)||@ Wake Forest||vs. South Carolina||ACC Championship|
|5||Louisville (9-1)||@ Houston||vs. Kentucky||ACC Championship|
|6||Washington (9-1)||vs. Arizona St.||@ Washington St (11/25)||Pac-12 Championship (12/2)|
|7||Wisconsin (8-2)||@ Purdue||vs. Minnesota||B1G Championship|
|8||Penn State (8-2)||@ Rutgers||vs. Michigan St.||B1G Championship|
|9||Oklahoma (8-2)||@ West Virginia||vs. Oklahoma St.|
|14||West Virginia (8-1)||vs. Oklahoma||@ Iowa St.||vs. Baylor|
– Ohio State can only qualify for the Big Ten Championship with a Penn State loss.
– Louisville can only qualify for the ACC Championship with a Clemson loss.
– Penn State can only qualify for the Big Ten Championship with a Michigan loss.