Penn State Bowl Projections
For the first time since 2009, Penn State finds itself ranked in the top 10. The No. 10 Nittany Lions are currently sitting at 7-2 with games against Indiana, Rutgers, and Michigan State remaining. While those matchups are far from foregone victories for the Lions, they will be favored in each of them. Therefore, a 10-2 season is well within reach. With that in mind, let’s take a look at some potential postseason destinations for James Franklin and company.
Rose Bowl (Jan. 2, 2017)-Penn State vs. Utah
The Lions would need some help to reach Pasadena. If Michigan somehow loses twice, then Penn State would advance to the conference title game. If they win, they would receive an automatic bid to the Rose Bowl (and would even have a chance of making the College Football Playoff). The likelier scenario is that either both Ohio State and Michigan go to the College Football Playoff and Penn State is selected over Wisconsin, or that Michigan wins out and the Rose Bowl selects Penn State over Ohio State and Wisconsin.
Probability: 35 percent
Orange Bowl (Dec. 30, 2016)-Penn State vs. Louisville
With at least one Big Ten team expected to go to the College Football Playoffs, it is likely that two more will play in a New Year’s Six bowl. In addition to the Rose Bowl’s automatic Big Ten bid, the Orange Bowl has ties to the conference too. The third best (or most attractive) Big Ten team, according to the bowl selection committee, will make this game. That will likely come down to Penn State and Wisconsin. With the Nittany Lions’ enormous fan base, excitement about the program, and history in Orange Bowl (five appearances all-time), this is a very likely destination.
Probability: 60 percent
Cotton Bowl (Jan. 2, 2017)-Penn State vs. Western Michigan
This game will feature whichever team, Penn State or Wisconsin, does not reach the Orange Bowl. The Dallas-based bowl will take an at-large team and the highest-ranked non-Power Five conference side, meaning this would be the matchup that Penn State has the best chance of winning. Right now, they would play a MAC opponent, so Nittany Lion fans looking for a bowl victory should hope for the Cotton Bowl.
Probability: 80 percent
If Penn State drops any more games, they can fall down to the Outback, Holiday, or Music City Bowl. However, expectations are suddenly high in Happy Valley and the Nittany Lions are looking at a New Year’s Six bowl appearance if their winning ways continue.
Jonathan Gross is a sophomore double-majoring in broadcast journalism and international politics (national security). You can reach him at email@example.com.