Here’s why Nittany Lions probably won’t make it
Well, this stinks, but I’m here to give you the bad news. No matter how much we want to gripe or rip the process, all indications point to Penn State not getting into the College Football Playoff even if it beats Wisconsin for the Big Ten title.
Our question here is whether the Big Ten champ should get into the field, and I say no. Not if it’s Wisconsin.
If it’s Penn State, then yes, because the Nittany Lions have the golden nugget of victories this season, a win over Ohio State that is the best win of any team in the country.
With that victory, I can make a stronger case for PSU than Wisconsin. Personally, I would take Penn State over Washington, even with one more loss, simply because the Huskies’ non-conference schedule was a joke and their conference isn’t anywhere near as good as the Big Ten.
My role in this point/counterpoint is to prepare you for the conversations I think will be taking place within the committee.
First, if Washington wins, I just can’t see the committee turning back a 12-1 conference champ from a Power Five league in favor of a second team from the Big Ten. The political ramifications of that within college football would be huge, not to mention it would mean shutting out all teams west of the Mississippi.
We are all thinking about this from Penn State’s standpoint. But if you’re the Pac-12, even in a year when your conference is down, and the committee takes a two-loss team over your one-loss champion, the league would have every right to blast the entire system.
OK, so let’s say Washington loses to Colorado, or Clemson loses to Virginia Tech.
Penn State should be in, without a doubt.
But the hunch here is that, ridiculously, Michigan would be the choice.
We know that in sports there are lies, damned lies and statistics. Then there’s the dreaded eye test, which can be a lie in and of itself.
To the committee, Michigan passes the eye test more than Penn State. Because of 49-10.
A score that is, frankly, a damned lie.
If you hear any analyst say 49-10 when justifying picking Michigan over Penn State, take heart knowing that the analyst either doesn’t know or flat out doesn’t care that PSU had six defensive starters out injured.
Context. Context. Context. Context. Context.
There is no way, no how that Michigan is 49-10 better than PSU now. So anyone who’s using that as their reasoning for picking the Wolverines is blatantly ignoring the facts.
And why is everyone ignoring this fact: An Iowa team that Penn State had just destroyed, 41-14, beat Michigan the very next week, 14-13.
Is Michigan better than Penn State? In my view, probably.
But Michigan blew its chance. The Wolverines controlled their own destiny and lost two of their last three games.
At some point, losing matters. The committee can’t just be so in love with Michigan from the eye test perspective that it largely ignores the late-season loss to Iowa, which to me seems to be what has happened.
For those hoping No. 7 PSU would jump No. 5 Michigan by beating No. 6 Wisconsin, consider this: Michigan is already ranked ahead of Penn State, and the Wolverines already beat Wisconsin. So, even if the Lions beat Wisconsin, too, since Michigan has already done that, I don’t see the committee all of a sudden jumping PSU over the Wolverines.
One last thing, which PSU fans won’t want to hear. I think some people on the committee probably view the Lions’ win over Ohio State as somewhat of a fluke. They’re willing to give PSU credit with a spot in the top 10, but ultimately they don’t see the Lions stacking up with other teams from the eye test.
The one thing that could change that would be a blowout win over Wisconsin. If the Lions can pull off something like a 38-10 victory, 12 hours before the committee makes its final decision, it could be enough to change opinions.
But let’s not get carried away. Beating Wisconsin even by a few points will be difficult.
If Penn State can do that, it looks like a trip to the Rose Bowl will be the best the Lions can do.