Evaluating Penn State’s College Football Playoff Hopes

Story posted November 1, 2019 in CommRadio, Sports by Zach Donaldson

Host Zach Donaldson, Ben Serfass, Grant Commerer and Josh Portney break down Penn State's playoff hopes as they stands right now:

The playoff aspirations are currently soaring high for Penn State. After starting off the season inconsistent, no one really knew what was going to come of the Nittany Lions. Ever since the dismantling of the Maryland Terrapins, something has clicked and the Nittany Lions have shown real promise as of late. They are ranked No. 5 in all of college football and have many talking about them as a legit playoff contender.

As for the other teams in contention, there are still some notable matchups that lie ahead. No. 2 Alabama faces off against No. 1 LSU in a huge SEC showdown next weekend. The Crimson Tide also take on No. 11 Auburn in the Iron Bowl to cap off their season. Ohio State squares off with Penn State in three weeks in a huge matchup, and then play Michigan at Ann Arbor for the final game of the year. NC State and South Carolina are the pitiful highlights left on Clemson’s weak schedule.

Some help definitely wouldn’t hurt Penn State, but there are so many scenarios that could transpire. Sometimes some wild things can happen in the realm of college football and things can get messy. But the most probable situation for the Nittany Lions to get into the playoffs is to win out. If Penn State doesn’t win out, their chances to snag a playoff berth are slim. Which now begs the question – can they?

It’s easier said than done, because Minnesota is for real at 8-0 and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Indiana at 6-2 shouldn’t be overlooked either. Rutgers – is still Rutgers. Bar none, Penn State should take care of business versus the lesser competition.

There’s still the season defining challenge versus Ohio State looming, and that’s an entirely different story. Against arguably the best team in college football, Penn State is going to have to play their best game all season. Even then, if the Nittany Lions are to claim victory versus the Buckeyes, it would place them in the Big Ten title game likely versus Wisconsin. So, there are many tests left ahead for the Nittany Lions and much is still to be determined.

Penn State is ranked in the top five for the first time in two years, but they have a solid argument to be ranked in the top four. They have two wins versus teams currently in the top-20 (Iowa and Michigan), and their defensive numbers match up extremely well with the other teams in the top five.

They’re certainly better than every team ranked below them, but there’s one glaring difference that sets them apart from the four teams ranked above and it’s the offensive side of the ball. Every team ranked above has shown more offensively, so if anything, it’s going to be the inconsistency on offense that holds Penn State back. Unless there is still some hidden potential with the Nittany Lion’s offense left to be seen this season, if there is any reason that Penn State would win out and unquestionably claim a playoff berth, it will be because of their defense.

Ohio State’s standout players Justin Fields, J.K. Dobbins, and Chase Young are all somewhere in the Heisman race. They won’t be easy conquer but if there’s any team in the Big Ten that can go toe to toe with Ohio State in terms of speed, athleticism, and skill, it’s Penn State by far. So, if there’s a reason for optimism that Penn State pulls off a win in Columbus, makes the Big Ten Championship, emerges victorious, and ultimately makes the college football playoffs – it’s that.



Zach Donaldson is a sophomore majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email zach.donaldson1@gmail.com.