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What Nittany Lions Need To Be In New Year’s Six

Penn State football’s 2018 season has been a bit disappointing for the fans who wanted to see a breakthrough to the College Football Playoff.

After back-to-back trips to New Year’s Six games, with the 2017 Rose Bowl and Fiesta Bowl, a step up to the top four with a senior quarterback in Trace McSorley was a solid, if lofty, goal.

Instead, PSU is 7-3, with losses to the Big Ten East’s three other main powers, Ohio State, Michigan State, and most recently, a drubbing at the hand of conference favorite Michigan.

Still, not all is lost for the Nittany Lions. After picking up a nice win over Wisconsin on Saturday, we’ll learn more about where they stand tonight, when the new College Football Playoff rankings are released.

Last week, Penn State came in at No. 20. No. 11 Kentucky, No. 14 NC State, No. 16 Mississippi State, No. 17 Boston College, and No. 18 Michigan State all suffered losses over the weekend, so the Nittany Lions are poised to make a pretty big leap forward.

If they can continue to rise, PSU may find itself in a big bowl once again.

Trace McSorley looks on during a play.

(Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images)

Finishing in the Top 12 of the College Football Playoff rankings is important for Penn State football to make a third straight New Year’s Six bowl.

The Nittany Lions should finish 9-3 in the regular season, with a trip to Rutgers this weekend and a final game at home against Maryland.

Those two wins should put the program on the cusp of a Top 12 spot, which would give it a very good chance at making a NY6 bowl, likely the Peach Bowl. Of course, the highest ranked Group of Five school automatically gets one of those bids, which is important to keep in mind. That is currently undefeated No. 12 UCF.

Here are the main competitors for those coveted spots, and their upcoming games:

No. 9 West Virginia (7-1): at Oklahoma State, vs. No. 7 Oklahoma, potential Big 12 Championship Game

No. 10 Ohio State (8-1): at Maryland, vs. No. 4 Michigan

No. 11 Kentucky (7-2): vs. Middle Tennessee, at Louisville

No. 13 Syracuse (8-2): at No. 3 Notre Dame (Bronx, NY), at No. 17 Boston College

No. 15 Florida (6-3): vs. Idaho, at Florida State

No. 19 Texas (6-3): vs. No. 22 Iowa State, at Kansas

Penn State has an easier path than West Virginia, Syracuse, and arguably Texas. You can definitely put Ohio State on that list too, but the Buckeyes have a head-to-head win over the Nittany Lions, and it seems likely that they will end with just one or two losses.

If Penn State jumps a bunch of those teams and winds up in the Top 12 at season’s end, a first-ever Peach Bowl trip for the team is likely. The Fiesta Bowl is also an option, though it is unlikely that Penn State will be sent to the same game two years in a row.

If Ohio State loses to Maryland AND Michigan, and Michigan makes the playoff, the Rose Bowl is also a possibility, but a very remote one. The Buckeyes are 14.5-point favorites over the Terrapins on the road.

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