“What marvelous chaos!” That saying, usually reserved for the NHL by award-winning announcer (and Pittsburgh Pirates fan) Mike “Doc” Emrick, perfectly encapsulated this weekend’s college football games.
The No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions entered the weekend needing a perfect storm to make the Big Ten championship game as well as to be considered for the College Football Playoff. Saturday night, the perfect storm started to pick up major steam.
Coming into the weekend, to make the Big Ten championship game, the Nittany Lions needed the Michigan Wolverines to lose two of their last three games, while Penn State won each of its last three games. Penn State held up its end of the bargain after winning a 45-31 back-and-forth tilt against the Indiana Hoosiers on Saturday afternoon.
Following the Nittany Lions’ victory, the dominoes began to fall almost immediately in Penn State’s favor.
Coming off a 41-14 routing last weekend in Happy Valley, the Hawkeyes returned home to face an undefeated No. 3 Michigan team, and Iowa pulled off the improbable upset to take down one of the top teams in the country 14-13 on a last-second field goal.
Pitt’s upset of No. 2 Clemson was a two-fold bonus for the Nittany Lions as it boosted the quality of their loss against the Panthers at the season, and it also aided Penn State’s long-shot chances of sneaking into the College Football Playoff because it bumps the Tigers down in the rankings.
No. 4 ranked Washington also lost, to No. 20 Southern California 26-13 late Saturday night to keep the dominoes falling in Penn State’s favor.
And while the teams at the top were beginning to fall, the teams directly in front of Penn State in the College Football Playoff poll began to fall too. No. 8 Texas A&M fell to Ole Miss for the Aggies’ second loss in a row and third on the season. Georgia took down No. 9 Auburn 13-7 to help set the table for the Nittany Lions to make a substantial jump in the CFP poll.
For those keeping track at home, that’s Nos. 2, 3, 4, 8, and 9 losing all on a single Saturday in November.
But what does this mean for Penn State head coach James Franklin and his Nittany Lions?
Two teams now control their own destiny for the rest of the season in the Big Ten: Penn State and Michigan. Should Michigan win out — the Wolverines play Indiana on Saturday at home and face Ohio State in Columbus in the final week of the regular season — the team will play the Big Ten West division winner in the Big Ten Championship on December 3, in Indianapolis, In.
For the Nittany Lions to play in Indianapolis, they too need to win out. They play on the road at Rutgers — the Scarlet Knights carry an 0-7 conference record into the match-up — and they’ll welcome Michigan State, which is 1-6 in conference play.
Penn State will also need Ohio State to beat the Wolverines because there’s currently a three-way tie atop the Big Ten East division with three teams all having one loss.
As a result of the Nittany Lions losing to in-state rival Pitt early in the season, Penn State is currently the odd man out for the Big Ten Championship with its two overall losses.
Should the perfect storm continue picking up steam and Penn State sees itself in the Big Ten Championship(perhaps against Wisconsin?), making the playoff becomes even more of a possibility, however, it’s still unlikely.
For Franklin and company, it’s business as usual for the remaining two games.
Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, Rutgers, complete focus on Rutgers nothing else!
— James Franklin (@coachjfranklin) November 13, 2016
Image credit: Mark Selders/GoPSUSports.com