Penn State’s schedule over the past three games has been a gauntlet.
The Nittany Lions remain unbeaten after navigating through a tricky primetime win at Iowa, holding off Michigan in the White Out and exercising some demons with a 28-7 win at Michigan State.
While further tests await, including this weekend’s clash with surprise unbeaten Minnesota and a showdown at “The Horseshoe” with Ohio State, Penn State is right in the thick of the College Football Playoff race through eight games.
On Tuesday, the College Football Playoff committee revealed its first Top-25 of the season, with Coach James Franklin’s team checking in at No. 4.
This marks the first time the program has been ranked inside the top four of the College Football Playoff rankings at any point.
Penn State trails No. 1 Ohio State, No. 2 LSU and No. 3 Alabama at the top of the rankings, but edged the defending national champs Clemson at No. 5 and Georgia at No. 6.
This weekend’s opponent, the Golden Gophers, appeared at No 17. Other Big Ten companions Wisconsin (13), Michigan (14) and Iowa (18) were all also ranked.
You can see the full rankings at the bottom of this story.
A berth in the College Football Playoff for Penn State could hinge on the Nov. 23 matchup in Columbus against the Buckeyes. The winner of that game will almost certainly win the Big Ten East Division and earn a trip to the Big Ten Championship Game in Indianapolis.
Win the Big Ten title game and Penn State is essentially a lock to make the Playoff as an unbeaten conference champion.
Still, a path does exist for the loser of the Penn State-Ohio State game to still find its way into the committee’s final four.
In the Nittany Lions’ case — with wins over the likes of the Wolverines, Hawkeyes, Pitt (Yes, the Panthers have been solid since their loss to Penn State in September), and potentially Minnesota and Indiana — their final resume as a one-loss team is going to be just as strong as any other contending team at the end of the season.
Penn State would obviously need some help in that scenario, namely needing the likes of Georgia, Oregon, Utah and Oklahoma to lose again between now and the final selection show on Dec. 8.
There’s plenty of football to be played. And all of that being said, my focus is on Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota, Minnesota.
I’m just eager to see Penn State go 1-0 this week.
— Vincent Lungaro ’18
1. Ohio State
4. Penn State
15. Notre Dame
16. Kansas State
19. Wake Forest
22. Boise State
23. Oklahoma State