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Is Penn State Overrated?

Rich Barnes-USA TODAY Sports

The Penn State Nittany Lions find themselves in a situation that they probably thought was impossible. Penn State, not Ohio State or Michigan, will be the team from the Big Ten East fighting to win a Big Ten Championship Game.

Before this season started, the Nittany Lions were not even considered to have a shot at winning the Big Ten. In the Big Ten East alone, Penn State were fourth in preseason odds. Penn State was behind Ohio State, Michigan, and Michigan State. Then to win the entire Big Ten, Penn State was also behind Iowa, Nebraska, and Wisconsin. It is now December 3rd and the only thing between the Nittany Lions are a Big Ten Championship are the Wisconsin Badgers.

Penn State has certainly surprised many people this year. The Nittany Lions finished the regular season 10-2, with losses coming only to Pittsburgh and Michigan. They reason they are advancing over Ohio State is because both have only one conference loss and Ohio State’s only conference loss came from Penn State. Do they deserve to be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game?

On one hand, there was not anything out of the ordinary that has put the Nittany Lions in this scenario. There were no massive injuries to another top team nor anything like disqualifications. Penn State played their games and beat Ohio State. So yes, Penn State does deserve to be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game. Ohio State could have made it if the Buckeyes beat Penn State, but they did not.

However, that does not mean that Penn State is the best team in the Big Ten East. Yes, Penn State beat Ohio State, but weird things like that happen sometimes. Any reasonable person understands that Ohio State is the better team. Michigan is likely better as well. Apart from beating Ohio State, Penn State does not have any big wins on their schedule. The only other ranked team on Penn State’s schedule was Michigan and the Nittany Lions lost 49-10. Then looking at the College Football Playoff Poll, Penn State is ranked No. 7 which in terms of talent may be a little high. The Nittany Lions are a very good football team no doubt, but playing head to head 10 times, they lose the majority of those games against probably Colorado, Oklahoma, and USC. Other teams may also be slightly better, like Louisville, despite its recent struggles.

In the end, all the matters is that Penn State is in the Big Ten Championship Game. Not only does Penn State have a chance to win the Big Ten, but to reach the College Football Playoff. If they win, the Nittany Lions have a shot to make the Playoff. Alabama is in for sure and so should Ohio State. Some will argue that if Penn State wins, it should go in over Ohio State since the Nittany Lions defeated Ohio State and won the Big Ten. Maybe that is true, but it is unlikely to happen and frankly, Ohio State is better and more deserving. As a result, Penn State will need help. If either Washington or Clemson loses and Penn State wins, then the Nittany Lions should be in the Playoff.

If the Nittany Lions lose, then the argument that they are overrated might ramp up, even if they lose to likely a better team in Wisconsin. What bowl game should Penn State deserve if it loses on Saturday? It depends on how the other conference championship games go, but Penn State should not play in one of the four major bowl games, assuming no major upsets. Penn State would be a three loss team with not a very impressive schedule. In the scenario Penn State loses and the favorites win this weekend, Ohio State will be in the playoff, Wisconsin and Michigan will be in the Rose Bowl and Orange bowl likely. Since the Sugar Bowl is the Big 12 vs SEC, that leaves only the Cotton Bowl left which are at-large bids. There are gonna be other teams more deserving.

It’s safe to say that this weekend is massive for Penn State. Win and get some help and the Nittany Lions are in the College Football Playoff for the first time. Lose and it’s very possible, if not likely, they Penn State will have to settle for something such as the Outback Bowl.

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