Three Things to Watch…
The drama around Penn State’s bowl fate seems to be fading as a chance to go to Pasadena has gone from unlikely to likely in a matter of days. No longer is getting two Big Ten teams into the College Football Playoff seemingly a requirement for Penn State’s Rose Bowl odds as numerous reports suggest the Rose Bowl is favoring the Nittany Lions. The case against Ohio State is simple, at CFP or Bust, Ohio State saw numerous opt-outs a season ago and failed to sell more than 30-percent of its tickets to the Rose Bowl. The Rose Bowl doesn’t smell so rosy for the scarlet and grey. Meanwhile Penn State carries a national brand with a fanbase hungry to return to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 2017. The Rose Bowl wouldn’t consider picking many Big Ten teams over Ohio State, but Penn State is one.
What happens if Purdue upsets Michigan? Things could get dicey for the Nittany Lions in the event of a few upsets. Purdue may hold the keys to the castle. In the event of the Boilermakers upsetting Michigan, Penn State could be put in the weird spot. Think of this as an “automatic bid” situation in college basketball. If Purdue sneaks a spot, it forces Penn State to earn an at-large bid, something that could become challenging particularly if USC or Georgia also loses. This situation could create enough chaos that Penn State could be left out of a New Year’s six as Cinderella teams steal too much prime real-estate. Penn State is void of a marquee win, and both Alabama and Tennessee currently outrank them and would likely earn those at-large slots Penn State would need.
Outside of bowl drama keeping Penn State’s coaching staff together is the biggest storyline over the coming weeks. James Franklin was a late sleeper pick to land the Auburn job, though the report that named him as a candidate also said he wasn’t interest. While losing Franklin seems downright unlikely this season, defensive coordinator Manny Diaz doesn’t seem long for Happy Valley. Diaz was reportedly a finalist for the FAU job that went to Tom Herman. He did a wonderful job with the Nittany Lions’ defense in one season and will likely be on head coaching radars. Whether Penn State loses him this year, or next, or the year after, it seems most likely the Diaz’s next stop will be back running a program.