The three big questions for Penn State and the next College Football Playoff rankings




 

On Tuesday night, the College Football Playoff selection committee will release its final rankings of the season prior to the conference championship games being played. It will be these rankings that will ultimately reveal just what Penn State's bowl outlook will look like while the Nittany Lions sit at home with their 10-2 regular season in the books.

There is plenty of speculation that Penn State is in a great spot to go to a New Years Six bowl game without playing a single down this upcoming weekend. Whether it is to the Cotton Bowl as the highest-ranked team available after all playoff spots and tie-ins are filled or as the Big Ten's representative in the Big Ten, the odds of Penn State playing in a New Years Six bowl game are much more optimistic this week than they were a week ago. The bowl projections have swung from a consensus projection of Penn State playing in the Citrus Bowl to a consensus projection of heading to the Cotton Bowl. That is because one of the SEC hurdles Penn State needed to clear took a fall over the weekend. LSU's loss to Texas A&M dropped the Tigers in the traditional rankings, and it is assumed the selection committee will drop three-loss LSU behind Penn State as well before the Tigers head to this weekend's SEC Championship Game.

Until we see the rankings from the selection committee for sure, it is pure speculation that Penn State's bowl outlook should be locked in on a New Years Six bowl game.

Here is what you should be paying close attention to Tuesday night as the final College Football Playoff rankings before selection Sunday are revealed.

First, where exactly is Penn State ranked?

 

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

We know through the history of the College Football Playoff rankings that the selection committee's rankings and the traditional polls don't always see eye-to-eye, but there are some good similarities for the most part. The first big question to answer is just where Penn State will be ranked this week in the eyes of the selection committee.

The expectation is Penn State will jump ahead of LSU in the committee's rankings, and that would indeed put Penn State in a favorable spot for a possible New Years Six bowl game. But could Penn State find a way to move ahead of Tennessee, as they have in the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll in recent weeks?

Given Tennessee's signature wins and how it performed last weekend, you should expect the committee to keep Tennessee ahead of Penn State. There is little reason to drop the Vols behind Penn State this week, and that would keep Tennessee in the driver's seat for a spot in the Orange Bowl ahead of Penn State as the highest-ranked team available from the SEC or Big Ten, assuming Alabama stays ahead of each and gets the inside track to the SEC's spot in the Sugar Bowl (with Georgia going to the College Football Playoff).

And no, Penn State is not about to jump ahead of Alabama.

Second, how far does Ohio State drop?

 

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

For those holding out hope for a trip to the Rose Bowl or Penn State, we need to see just where the Buckeyes land in this week's rankings. It is expected that Ohio State will fall out of the top four after its loss to Michigan over the weekend, and the game getting away from the Buckeyes on their home field didn't do them any favors in the argument to remain in the top four ahead of undefeated TCU and one-loss USC.

Ohio State dropped to No. 5 in both the USA TODAY Sports Coaches Poll and the AP Top 25 this week, and it is likely they see a similar ranking in the playoff rankings on Tuesday night. That keeps the hope alive of backdooring its way into the College Football Playoff. Ohio State's best path to the playoff falls with either TCU or USC losing in their respective conference championship games this weekend (a loss by Michigan likely won't cut it for Ohio State). It is certainly not out of the realm of possibility either the Horned Frogs lose (to Kansas State) or USC loses (to Utah) to open the door for the Buckeyes.

This is key for Penn State, of course, because two Big Ten teams in the College Football Playoff leaves the Big Ten's spot in the Rose Bowl vacant. The Rose Bowl takes the Big Ten champion or the next highest-ranked Big Ten team available, and Penn State is the only other Big Ten team on the radar with a top 10 ranking.

Even if the committee does keep Ohio State in its top four, TCU and USC winning in their conference championship games this weekend would likely wrap up the other two spots in the field behind Georgia and Michigan. Ohio State has a shot if the committee keeps them hanging there at four or five, but the Buckeyes need help no matter what their ranking is Tuesday night.

What does Penn State have to worry about? It's still LSU, actually

 

LSU Tigers take on the Mississippi State Bulldogs at Tiger Stadium in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, USA. Mandatory Credit: SCOTT CLAUSE/USA TODAY NETWORK. Thursday, Sept. 15, 2022.
Lsu Vs Miss State Football V5 5402

There are still some scenarios in play that could come back to haunt Penn State. LSU pulling the upset of Georgia in the SEC Championship Game is the biggest concern.

An LSU victory over Georgia won't be likely to knock Georgia out of the College Football Playoff, but it changes the New Years Six outlook in a negative way for Penn State. LSU would take the SEC's spot in the Sugar Bowl as the conference champion, and Alabama or Tennessee would be the highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten or SEC for the Orange Bowl. That would leave the other available ahead of Penn State for the Cotton Bowl's at-large spot to face the Group of 5 conference champion.

And if that ends up being the case, Penn State could be tracking back to Orlando to play in the Citrus Bowl instead.

So, go Dawgs.

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Story originally appeared on Nittany Lions Wire

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