As the 2022 regular season draws to a close, Penn State’s post-season fate is becoming clear.
Assuming the Nittany Lions win their most recent homestand against Michigan State on Saturday en route to a 10-2 record, it still doesn’t look like they’ll qualify for a New Year’s Six Bowl game, even though they’re like a top 10 team since week 6.
The reality is that Penn State hasn’t played enough against ranked teams this year, and when it has – against Ohio State and Michigan – it has lost.
It’s the same problem for undefeated teams Ohio State and Michigan, who will have to fight for a playoff spot next weekend and let the loser look around on the outside.
There just wasn’t enough talent in the Big Ten this year to push two conference teams into the playoffs with a loss and earn a third a berth in a New Year’s Six Bowl game.
That third team is Penn State, a team that likely deserves an appearance in the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl, or Cotton Bowl but won’t make the finals.
Ohio State and Michigan’s losers will take the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl spot, while Alabama is likely to go to the Orange Bowl and Tennessee to the Cotton Bowl.
The Crimson Tide and Volunteers both had an absolute roller coaster ride of a season, being teams with two losses and losses to top 10 opponents respectively – one of Alabama’s losses was to Tennessee.
Despite beating the Crimson Tide and LSU, the Volunteers lost via multiple touchdowns to No. 1 Georgia and were smoked 63-38 from 7-4 in South Carolina on Saturday.
Still, they have ranked wins, something Penn State doesn’t have.
It’s frustrating for the Nittany Lions considering they’re playing their best football in three years, with two losses to top-10 teams in Michigan and Ohio State, while blowing almost every other opponent out of the water.
The running game has returned to the light led by standout freshmen Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, both of whom have surpassed 700 rushing yards this season. Meanwhile, Manny Diaz coached to perfection in his first season as the team’s defensive coordinator.
Right now Penn State really only has two paths to a New Year’s Six Bowl game — Alabama must either lose to 5-6 Auburn or Tennessee must lose to 5-6 Vanderbilt, both of which are extremely unlikely.
It’s likely Penn State will go to the Citrus Bowl, a game just outside of New Year’s Six qualifiers, and face an SEC opponent for the second straight season in the postseason.
That team, which Alabama and Tennessee both win on Saturday, is almost a ban to be Ole Miss if the Rebels beat Mississippi state this weekend.
After a 7-0 start, Ole Miss has struggled tremendously over the past four weeks, falling to LSU, Alabama and most recently Arkansas.
Even with opt-outs likely, Penn State shouldn’t have any trouble against the Rebels given that the Citrus Bowl is outside of the New Year’s Six sphere, especially considering it’s without its two scheduled first-round picks, Olu Fashanu and Joey Porter Jr.. for the last few weeks anyway.
Let’s face it, the Nittany Lions could rival almost any team in the top 10, but they likely never will due to their lack of quality wins.
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Penn State lost another commitment for the Class of 2023 Sunday night.