A third straight Big Ten win pushed Penn State ahead in the latest Associated Press Top 25 Poll. The Nittany Lions, fresh off a 38-3 victory over Maryland, advanced from 15th to 14th in a fresh installment of national rankings released Sunday afternoon.
Penn Sate wrapped up its regular season Saturday in Beaver Stadium, scoring 31 unanswered points to pull away from the visiting Terrapins. The Nittany Lions improved to 9-3 in 2018, with a 6-3 record against Big Ten opponents.
Alabama continues to lead the AP Top 25 Poll, and the reigning champions should be a lock to remain atop College Football Playoff rankings when those are revealed Tuesday. The Crimson Tide are followed, in order, by Clemson, Notre Dame, Georgia, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Central Florida, Michigan, Texas and Washington.
Penn State is listed directly behind a pair of programs — LSU and Washington State — tied for 12th. West Virginia follows directly behind the Nittany Lions at No. 15.
Aside from Ohio State (No. 6), Michigan (No. 8) and Penn State (No. 14), the Big Ten is also represented by 21st-ranked Northwestern. The Wildcats and Buckeyes meet next Saturday in a conference championship showdown.
Penn State must wait until Dec. 2 to learn its postseason fate, but a marquee bowl matchup is probable. The Nittany Lions ended each of the last two seasons in New Year’s Six bowls (Rose Bowl vs. USC in 2016; Fiesta Bowl vs. Washington in 2017).
“It’s great going into the bowl game on a high note, there’s no doubt about it but it’s going to be work,” Penn State coach James Franklin said Sunday. “We’re going to play a really good opponent and we’re going to have to find another way to get a W. I don’t think there is any doubt, going into the bowl game off a win, and a convincing win at that, is helpful.”
A dominant win over Maryland was headlined by quarterback Trace McSorley, who totaled 294 yards and three touchdowns. He left the field to a standing ovation early in the fourth quarter, and was one of 21 program veterans recognized on Senior Day.
“I do not know if you could have written a better script for how this last game would have went for this senior class,” Franklin said.
Defensively, the Nittany Lions compiled 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Linemen Kevin Givens (two sacks) and Yetur Gross-Matos (3.5 tackles for loss) led the charge, while Cam Brown, Robert Windsor and Ayron Monroe also collected one sack each.
If Penn State can climb back into the top 10 at season’s end, it would be the first three-year stretch of such a result for the program since 1980-82.
The Nittany Lions landed at No. 8 in the final AP Top 25 last season following a Fiesta Bowl win over Washington. Penn State finished seventh in 2016 after earning a Big Ten title. That ended a six-year streak of Penn State ending seasons outside the AP Top 25.