If Penn State wants to sneak into the College Football Playoff, an upset courtesy of Ed O would really help matters.
Penn State would like to make the College Football Playoff, but other teams will need to lose for that to happen. So let’s take a look around the country, and see what games (and outcomes) could impact the Nittany Lions the most.
Minnesota at No. 3 Ohio State — 12 p.m.
Root for OSU?
I’m not sure there’s a definitive correct answer on what Penn State should be rooting for here, but here’s my take.
What’s more likely — Ohio State wins out or loses twice? I think winning out is more likely, so to root for one loss against a Minnesota or Purdue isn’t going to help Penn State because, like it or not, a big positive on Penn State’s resume could be a one-point loss to an undefeated Buckeyes squad.
With two losses seeming unlikely, Penn State’s most realistic scenario (note: still unlikely) to win the Big Ten is if Penn State beats Michigan, but the Wolverines win out otherwise, upsetting the Buckeyes at the Shoe in the process. If that were to happen, all three teams would end up 8-1, and the fifth tiebreaker of “best cumulative conference winning percentage of non-divisional opponents” would seemingly favor the Nittany Lions.
As laid out pretty nicely by John Morgan of RLR , the conference records of Penn State’s cross conference opponents (Wisconsin, Iowa, and Illinois) will definitely be better than Ohio State’s (Nebraska, Minnesota, and Purdue), and should be better than Michigan’s (Wisconsin, Northwestern, and Nebraska) too. So should the above sequence happen, Penn State would most likely win the Big Ten East.
Again, I don’t think the 8-1 three-team tie scenario is all that likely, but from Penn State’s perspective, having Ohio State walk into the Michigan game undefeated seems like mostly a good thing. If the Buckeyes win as expected, that’s fine because the Nittany Lions should still reap the benefits of their only loss being to an undefeated team. But the added benefit of Ohio State potentially dropping the game and allowing Penn State to sneak into the Big Ten Championship — well, that’s where the true value lies.
Pittsburgh at No. 5 Notre Dame — 2:30 p.m.
Root for Pitt
This is an obvious one. If Notre Dame finishes undefeated, it’s going to the playoff so any loss will be fantastic. Unfortunately, Pitt is not going to beat Notre Dame because Pitt is flaming garbage. But still, root for the Panthers here.
No. 2 Georgia at No. 13 LSU — 3:30 p.m.
Root for LSU
Again, another easy one. Penn State will want Georgia to have one loss going into the SEC Championship so if (when?) it loses to Alabama, it will have two losses that should push it out of the playoff conversation. Really, and this goes for the SEC overall, an undefeated Alabama with everyone else having two losses is probably best for Penn State.
No. 7 Washington at No. 17 Oregon — 3:30 p.m.
Root for Oregon
Both these teams have one loss, but let’s not overthink it — root for the Huskies to lose. Washington is the better team so for them to eliminate themselves now is the best case scenario for Penn State. Of course, another Oregon loss after this will be preferred, but with trips to Washington State and Utah still on the docket, I think the Ducks will find another “L” somewhere.
No. 15 Wisconsin at No. 12 Michigan — 7:30 p.m.
Root for Michigan
As we talked about above, Penn State is going to want Michigan to win out (other than on November 3, obviously). Not just because the Wolverines will be Penn State’s best win, but because it keeps alive the potential of the crazy tiebreaker scenario if all finish 8-1. So, uh, Hail to the, uh, Victors?
Big 12 Games
Root for Baylor over No. 9 Texas — 3:30 p.m.
Root for Iowa State over No. 6 West Virginia — 7 p.m.
I’m grouping the Big 12 together because, honestly, it’s a strong conference that if its champion is 12-1, it will (and should) get in over an 11-1 Penn State. Fortunately, because of its depth, there’s a likelihood for them to beat up on each other, so root for that. I mean, look at how Texas, West Virginia, and Oklahoma finish the season:
- Texas: Baylor, @OK St, WVU, @Texas Tech, ISU, and Kansas
- West Virginia: @ISU, Baylor, @Texas, TCU, @OK St, Oklahoma
- Oklahoma: @TCU, KSU, @Texas Tech, OK St, Kansas, @WVU
That’s a rough final six games for all three teams, so for Texas and Oklahoma to lose one more, and for West Virginia to lose twice — I think the opportunity is there. Let’s hope it starts with weekend Iowa State taking down the Mountaineers in Ames.