Championship Week Bowl Projections
Following one of the craziest weekends in recent Big Ten history, Penn State has found its way into the Big Ten Championship Game. While their exact bowl destination is still up in the air, one thing is for certain: a New Year’s Six bowl game is on the horizon. There are a lot of variables in play, but with only one weekend remaining in the college football season, here’s where the Nittany Lions can play following this weekend’s conference championship game.
IF PENN STATE BEATS WISCONSIN
Rose Bowl vs. Colorado (Jan. 2, 2017)
There are a few ways that this could happen. The simplest possibility is that Penn State, Washington and Clemson all win. In that case, with the Nittany Lions winning the Big Ten, they are guaranteed a spot in the “Granddaddy of Them All.” Even if Michigan is ranked higher than Penn State after this weekend, the Rose Bowl is contractually obligated to take the conference champion. Another possibility is that either Washington or Clemson lose in their respective conference title games, and Michigan makes the playoff over Penn State.
Probability: 65 percent
Peach Bowl (College Football Playoff Semifinal) vs. Alabama (Dec. 31, 2016)
In addition to needing to dominate Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, the Lions will need some help. Either Washington and/or Clemson must lose, and even then Penn State could get snubbed in favor of No. 5 Michigan. The Wolverines, who are currently ranked two spots higher than Penn State, own the head-to-head matchup, winning 49-10 in late September (It was the Nittany Lions’ last loss). The Michigan factor is why Penn State needs to beat Wisconsin by a considerable amount.
Probability: 35 percent
IF PENN STATE LOSES TO WISCONSIN
Cotton Bowl vs. Western Michigan (Jan. 2nd, 2017)
Penn State is basically a shoe-in for this game if they fall to Wisconsin. The Cotton Bowl takes an at-large team, which would be Penn State, and pits them against the highest-ranked non-Power Five team. Despite the underwhelming opponent, a Cotton Bowl to end the season would still be a tremendous accomplishment for James Franklin and company.
Probability: 85 percent
Orange Bowl vs. Florida State (Dec. 30, 2016)
Chances are, Michigan will be selected for this game over Penn State. However, if the Lions lose a close one to Wisconsin, they may still have a chance. This matchup would be a rematch of the 2005-06 season edition of the Orange Bowl, when Penn State defeated the Seminoles in three overtimes.
Probability: 15 percent
Regardless of what happens on Saturday, expect an interesting day on December 4 when the bowl matchups are selected.
Jonathan Gross is a sophomore double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics (national security). To contact him, email firstname.lastname@example.org.