Over the years, when all things were reasonably equal entering the bowl season, Penn State often was granted the benefit of the doubt and offered the best scenario possible.
And that's what kept the Nittany Lions in this year's Bowl Championship Series speculation until the final hours.
Penn State's history of traveling well, its national alumni base, its longstanding relationship with the Fiesta and Orange Bowl and its TV drawing card of Joe Paterno were not enough to swing the school's third BCS berth in the last five years.
For one simple reason: All things weren't equal this year.
Iowa's head-to-head victory at Penn State gave the Hawkeyes a trump card that the Lions could not overcome.
And, truthfully, since both teams finished 10-2 and Iowa played tougher at Ohio State than the Lions played against the Buckeyes at Beaver Stadium, head-to-head competition had to be a factor that weighed more heavily than the other bells and whistles.
Don't underestimate Iowa's following, though.
ESPN.com reported last week that in 2002 the Hawkeyes sold more tickets, 45,000, than any other team in Orange Bowl history. That includes Penn State's visit in 2006 when the Lions sold 35,000 tickets.
Still, credit the Fiesta and the Orange Bowl for perhaps resisting the temptation of being able to trumpet the game's senior statesman, JoePa, and allowing the regular-season games to matter.
Paterno said Sunday night he had no regrets about the BCS selection.
"The only thing important to me was to go someplace where they have a good time and have a really good opponent," he said. "Whether they put a BCS in front of it or behind it didn't bother me at all."
But just imagine where a 10-2 Notre Dame would have fit in to the BCS this year. If you don't know, it likely would have been in front of both Iowa and Penn State.
The BCS is designed to match No. 1 vs. No. 2, which this year is Alabama vs. Texas. To that extent, absent a true playoff, the system has accomplished its charge.
Penn State has typically benefited from it. There has been many a year it has been selected for a bowl over a Big Ten colleague with the same record because it travels better.
Ironically, BCS?bragging rights aside, a matchup with Georgia Tech in the Orange or Boise State or TCU in the Fiesta may not have been as attractive as what the Lions ended up with.
A trip to Orlando and a matchup with a solid LSU team from the nation's premier conference is more than a consolation prize.
Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or firstname.lastname@example.org.