Late Saturday night — hours after the Nittany Lions escaped Indiana with a win — Penn State Twitter danced on Ohio State’s grave. The Buckeyes got stomped by Purdue, 49-20, and Nittany Lion fans ate it up. Problem is, that Ohio State loss might keep Penn State from a Rose Bowl return.
After back-to-back losses, the Nittany Lions’ path to Pasadena was clear: Win out and have Ohio State do the same, with the Buckeyes getting to the College Football Playoff. That would force the Rose Bowl to pick the next highest-ranked Big Ten team, which would likely be the 10-2 Nittany Lions.
But after Saturday, six of seven national media bowl projections have Michigan in the playoff and Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. So, where does that leave the Nittany Lions? Most likely the Sunshine State.
Here are Penn State’s current projections:
- ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura: vs. Missouri, Outback Bowl
Outside of McMurphy’s Holiday Bowl selection — he had Wisconsin and Iowa in the Citrus and Outback Bowl, respectively — the consensus is that the Nittany Lions will land in Florida and face an SEC team.
Now, an at-large bid to a New Year’s Six bowl isn’t out of the question. If Penn State wins two of its next three games and handles Rutgers and Maryland to finish off the season, the Nittany Lions might be ranked high enough at 9-3 to slip into the Fiesta Bowl again or land in the Peach Bowl. Finish 10-2 and those would be fall-back bowls. In Arizona or Atlanta, the Nittany Lions would face either the highest-ranked Group of 5 team (likely Central Florida) or another at-large Power 5 squad (possibly LSU, Georgia, Oklahoma or Texas).
But with the way Penn State is playing — barely hanging on in Bloomington — five straight wins and a trip to the Rose Bowl is improbable. And Ohio State’s loss might have made matters worse.