Michigan’s loss completely changed the landscape of not just the College Football Playoff, but the race in the Big Ten East.
Yesterday may go down as one of the craziest days in the young College Football Playoff Era of NCAA Football.
The unbeaten No. 2 seed, Clemson, was knocked off by Pittsburgh on a Chris Blewitt field goal with six seconds remaining.
Then in Iowa City, No. 3 Michigan succumbed to a similar fate. As time expired, Hawkeyes’ kicker Keith Duncan sent a 33-yard field goal through the uprights to give his team the lead.
The quarterback for Michigan the last time Iowa beat a second seeded Wolverines team? Current Michigan Head Coach, Jim Harbaugh.
Michigan and Clemson were far from the only teams that suffered surprising losses yesterday, with No. 4 Washington, No. 8 Texas A&M, and No. 9 Auburn all losing to lesser opponents.
With the top 10 left in complete shambles, one team in particular has just seen their season take a new turn. That team is Penn State.
When Penn State burst on to the scene October 22, when they pulled off an upset win over Ohio State, there were many who dismissed the victory as a fluke.
Behind Trace McSorley and Saquon Barkley, along with the return of senior linebacker Brandon Bell, Penn State has proven to the country that the Ohio State victory was no fluke, and this program is back.
They blew away both Purdue and Iowa the past two weeks, and toughed out a gritty two-touchdown victory over Indiana yesterday.
After yesterday’s victory, many optimistic Nittany Lion fans clung to the sliver of hope that the team could make a trip to Indianapolis on the third of December.
Waking up this morning, many fans found out that such an idea is no longer so far-fetched.
With Michigan’s loss to a conference opponent last night, Penn State’s path to Indianapolis is quite clear.
If Penn State can manage to fend off two weak programs in Rutgers and Michigan State, and Ohio State can beat Michigan, the Nittany Lions will be be in line to go to the Big Ten Championship game.
In this scenario, Michigan will have two conference losses, putting them in third place in the Big Ten East behind the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes.
Despite the Lions potentially having two losses compared Ohio State’s one, one of Penn State’s losses came to Pittsburgh, a non-conference opponent.
The two teams would be tied in the Big Ten standings, with Penn State winning the tie-breaker by virtue of head-to-head record.
Not playing for the Big Ten championship doesn’t necessarily end the playoff aspirations of Ohio State, but it certainly would open them up for the team from State College.
If Penn State were able to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, paired with the fall of Michigan that would need to occur in such a scenario, Penn State could see themselves much higher than the 10th ranking they have right now.
Pittsburgh beating Clemson makes Penn State’s three-point loss to the Panthers in the beginning of the year look like not as big of a weak point to the committee.
The fact that Iowa was able to defeat Michigan makes their 41-14 rout look even stronger.
Since No. 9 Auburn and No. 8 Texas A&M both lost to unranked opponents, it’s easy to infer the Nittany Lions will start their climb up the rankings this week.
Even after one loss, the committee will still likely view Michigan, Washington, and Clemson as top programs, so it’s hard to believe that Penn State would move any higher than the seventh or eighth spot.
The College Football Playoff rankings this week will most likely look something like this:
- Ohio State
- Penn State
With the Big Ten having potentially four teams in the top seven spots, thinking that the playoff could have two teams from the conference is not so hard to believe.
At the beginning of the year, who would have thought one of those teams very well could be the Penn State Nittany Lions?