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Penn State Football: Big Ten Title, Not Playoff Bid, More Than Enough for Both Penn State and Wisconsin

by on December 02, 2016 6:30 PM

INDIANAPOLIS -- Penn State and Wisconsin sit just 48 hours from a potential College Football Playoff bid. It's something hard to ignore, something nearly impossible to put out of sight and out of mind. Months ago it was a dream for both teams, now it could very well be a win away from reality.

And for nearly an hour inside Lucas Oil Stadium, both head coaches, Penn State's James Franklin and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, faced a media contingent all too aware of the stakes at hand, that Saturday's game is about a lot more than who won a 14-team conference.

College football is watching, the playoff committee could very well face a situation where three Big Ten teams have a viable claim that their season is worth that all too elusive playoff berth. The debates alone are endless. Could Penn State miss out despite winning the conference? Could Michigan make it in despite finishing third in the Big Ten East?

There is no precedent. There is no rulebook. Just a committee behind closed doors, deciding the fate of the season.

Both coaches predictably dodged the chance to stoke those flames, Chryst not even entertaining the discussion of the format of the playoffs at large. Franklin, too, brushed aside a chance to promote Penn State's 10-2 resume and win over Ohio State. 

Their message: Winning the Big Ten is still a big deal, even if nobody else seems to care.

"The way I understand it, our stadium, they put the years on the stadium wall of the Big Ten championship seasons," Franklin said. "So to be a part of something like that... It would mean a lot to our players. It would mean a lot to our community. Big Ten championships are hard to get. Championships in general are hard to get."

For Penn State that is particularly true The Nittany Lions haven't won the Big Ten outright since 1994, sharing the title in 2005 and 2008. It's an interesting situation for both Penn State and the Badgers that a playoff snub would result in an 11-2 season with a guaranteed Rose Bowl bid.

As far as Wisconsin, it's not as though the Badgers are going to head home disappointed if all they end up with is a Big Ten championship.

"This is a big deal that we're here," Chryst said. "I think one quality of this team that I've appreciated a ton this year is their ability to make the most of the moment. They've done that. I don't spend any time trying to figure out or think about maybe what you're asking in the question as far as big picture. I know this is a big deal for us and our players. It would be doing this game and our team a lot of disservice if we didn't put in every bit of energy. And we needed to and we wanted to. And feel lucky to be able to do that."

So sure, maybe the winner of Saturday's game misses out on the playoffs, but in the eyes of both teams, that doesn't mean the season was a waste. Not in the least.

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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