Nittany Lions vs. Notre Dame, anyone?
Penn State’s bowl situation still depends on a number of factors and games yet to be played, but there appear to be three strong possibilities at this point.
Presuming the Nittany Lions beat Maryland on Saturday — they are 21-point favorites — they would finish the regular season 10-2, and these would the most likely bowl destinations:
• Cotton Bowl, Dec. 29 in Dallas, 8:30 p.m. (game is at AT&T Stadium, not the old Cotton Bowl Stadium)
• Orange Bowl, Dec. 30 in Miami, 8 p.m.
• Citrus Bowl, Jan. 1 in Orlando, 1 p.m.
On Sunday, Jerry Palm of CBSSports projected Penn State to go to the Cotton Bowl and play Notre Dame.
ESPN’s two bowl analysts differed, with one selecting PSU for the Cotton Bowl against TCU, and the other putting the Lions in the Citrus Bowl against Mississippi State.
The nation’s four best teams will go to the College Football Playoff, then the rest of the top teams will be selected to the remaining New Year’s Six bowl games: Orange, Cotton, Fiesta and Peach.
The Orange Bowl gets the first pick of the litter among teams not in the playoff. That game will pit an ACC team against a team from the Big Ten, SEC or Notre Dame.
There are no conference tie-ins with the Cotton Bowl, Fiesta Bowl or the Peach Bowl, so those games can choose their participants freely in search of the best matchups.
From Penn State’s perspective, and from a national perspective, as well, it’s hard to imagine getting a much better matchup than the Lions vs. Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl. If that is a possibility, it would be a ratings and travel/tourism winner for all parties.
An Orange Bowl matchup between PSU and Miami also would be very appealing, given the teams’ traditions and history against one another.
There’s no way to determine where Penn State ultimately will end up yet, however, because there are so many big games still to be played around the country.
One of the biggest involves Ohio State and Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game.
If the Badgers win that, they would be undefeated and a strong bet for the College Football Playoff. Ohio State then would have three losses, and even though the Buckeyes beat PSU, the Lions likely would be ranked higher and picked before them in a bowl game.
But, if Ohio State beats Wisconsin, it would push the Badgers back down to a New Year’s Six game, which in turn could knock Penn State out. In that scenario, the Citrus Bowl could be the likely landing spot.