What a Potential 12-Team Playoff Format Could Mean For Penn State

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Change is coming in the college football landscape and it could be coming soon.

Sports Illustrated first reported that a new 12-team playoff format has been recommended by a College Football Playoff management committee. While nothing has been approved yet, today’s announcement is arguably the most detailed proposal of an expanded playoffs to date.

While the announcement could have huge implications on group of five programs looking to make the playoffs, it also makes a potential playoff berth for Penn State slightly easier.

In the expanded playoff format, the proposal includes six at-large bids for teams that don’t win a conference championship. During the normal four team format, a team would have to be almost perfect just to capture that last playoff spot.

This past season saw Notre Dame as the only non-conference championship winning team to make the playoffs. Their only loss before the playoffs came against Clemson, another team in the playoffs whom the Irish had defeated earlier during the season.

For Penn State, this means the lack of a conference championship wouldn’t necessarily end all hope for the Nittany Lions.

Ohio State has won the Big Ten conference for the past four seasons and have beaten the Nittany Lions in each of those four seasons on top of that. Another loss to the Buckeyes could still keep the Nittany Lions in consideration for an at-large bid especially with a season similar to 2019.

The 2019 Penn State football team lost two games against ranked opponents and finished No. 10 in the college football polls which would qualify the Nittany Lions for a spot in the potential 12-team format.

That season saw the Nittany Lions lose close road contests against Ohio State and Minnesota, both teams finished the year inside the top 10. Penn State made up for those losses however with strong ranked wins over teams such as Iowa and Michigan.

This year's schedule for Penn State features a few opportunities for the Nittany Lions to boost their resume with both Indiana and Auburn coming to town. Road trips down to Wisconsin and Iowa could also help add to the resume. Like in 2019, one close loss against any of those teams could still keep Penn State in contention.

James Franklin has yet to lead Penn State to the playoffs since his arrival in 2014. If the expanded playoff format is approved for this season, Franklin could have his best chance during his tenure to lead the Nittany Lions to the College Football Playoffs.

Logan Bourandas is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email lxb5412@psu.edu.