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Penn State Football: Four for Three Spots

by on November 28, 2009 8:56 PM

STATE COLLEGE — One contender for a BCS spot fell by the wayside on Saturday, leaving Penn State and Iowa exactly where they were before the weekend of college of football started -- going head-to-head for a spot in the Fiesta or Orange Bowls.

The Bowl Championship Series was dealt a wild card on Saturday, when Oklahoma State fell 27-0 to Oklahoma. That may have opened the door to the Fiesta Bowl for Penn State. Maybe.

It boils down to three picks by two bowls. With Okie State out of the picture, the Fiesta will have two selections. And the Orange Bowl will have one. Essentially, the BSC draft next Sunday will go like this:

1 -- National Championship Game (Texas vs. SEC champ)

2 -- Rose Bowl takes Big Ten and Pac-10 champs

3 -- Orange Bowl must take ACC champ (Clemson or Georgia Tech)

4 -- Sugar Bowl picks SEC loser to replace the spot held for the SEC champ

5 -- Fiesta Bowl gets to pick to replace the spot held for the Big 12 champ (Texas)

6 -- Orange Bowl picks second team

7 -- Fiesta Bowl picks second team

8 -- Sugar Bowl picks second team

Only two teams from the Big Ten can get picked. Ohio State is one of them. So either Penn State or Iowa could get selected, not both.

The BCS must pick TCU or Boise State, as conference champions, both not necessarily both. But both should make it.

Forget round 8 for Penn State – the Big East champ (Cincinnati or Pitt) will be the last BCS team selected.

To be picked in rounds 5 to 7, Penn State needs to be in the top 14 of the BCS standings to be eligible for a BCS game. In the Nov. 22 standings, Penn State was ranked 13th. But Oklahoma State will definitely fall out of the top 14, while there is a chance that Virginia Tech, a 42-13 winner over Virginia, could jump over Penn State. Still, that would put the Nittany Lions at No. 14.

Upset wins by Pitt and/or Oregon State in the week ahead could – could -- put the Nittany Lions out of the top 14 and therefore be ineligible for a BCS game. Then it’s Capital One for sure.

So where will Penn State go?

If Fiesta picks Iowa in round 5, Penn State is finished with the BCS and will go to the Capital One Bowl.

If Fiesta picks Boise State or TCU in round 5, the Nittany Lions have to still look pretty good to the Orange Bowl. PSU’s history of great TV ratings and the Orange’s desperate need for same, make Penn State a more viable choice than the two less established programs or even Iowa.

If Orange picks Iowa in round 6, Penn State is finished with the BCS and will go to the Capital One Bowl.

If round 7 comes and if both TCU or Boise State are gone, it’ll come down to Penn State and Iowa. And I think Fiesta will select Penn State.

Here is where the power of Joe Paterno comes in. He has known John Junker, the CEO and president of the Fiesta Bowl, for three decades. It was a relationship that was forged in the bowl’s early days and cemented on Jan. 2, 1987, when Penn State defeated Miami for the national title and put what was then a renegade bowl on the map.


Texas vs. SEC Champion (Alabama or Florida)

Texas, fresh off a 49-39 slugfest with Texas A&M, takes its 12-0 record to Cowboys Stadium next Saturday, Dec. 5, at 8 p.m. for the Big 12 Championship Game. If the Longhorns beat Nebraska (9-3) -- and they should -- they will advance to play the winner of the SEC Championship Game.

Florida (12-0) and Alabama (12-0) will meet at 4 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 5 in Atlanta in the SEC title game for the privilege of advancing to the BCS title game. The consolation prize? The Sugar Bowl.


Ohio State (10-2) vs. Pac-10 Champion (Oregon or Oregon State)

Oregon (9-2) hosts Oregon State (8-3) on Thursday, Dec. 3, in “The Civil War.” The winner represents the Pac-10 Conference against the Buckeyes in the Rose Bowl.


TCU (12-0) and Boise State (12-0); or TCU or Boise State vs. Penn State (10-2) or Iowa (10-2)

The champion of the Big 12 is guaranteed a spot in the Fiesta. BUT that’s unless that champion is playing in the national championship game -- and a win by Texas puts them in the title match. So the Fiesta gets to pick a replacement, but only after the Sugar picks the loser of the SEC Championship game.


ACC Champion (Georgia Tech or Clemson) vs. Penn State, Iowa, TCU or Boise State

The winner of the Georgia Tech-Clemson ACC title game, being played Saturday, Dec. 5 in Tampa Bay, will decide one spot. Georgia Tech is 10-1, while Clemson is a woeful 8-4.


Loser of Florida-Alabama vs. Big East Champion (Pittsburgh or Cincinnati)

With the winner of the SEC Championship game in the BCS National Championship Game, the Sugar Bowl gets picks a replacement team for the Alabama-Florida.

I’m assuming that the winner of that game will be ranked No. 1 in the BCS standings, and the BCS rules stipulate that “the bowl losing the No. 1 team team gets the first replacement….” But have no fear Penn Staters; the Sugar is dead-set on picking the SEC runner-up, Florida or Alabama.

Cincinnati (11-0) is at Pittsburgh (9-2) next Saturday to determine the champion of the Big East Conference. That winner is guaranteed a spot in a BCS game. They’re also guaranteed to be the last team selected.

By then, we’ll know where the Nittany Lions will be playing. Okie (State) dokey?

Mike Poorman has covered Penn State football since 1979, and for since the 2009 season. His column appears on Mondays and Fridays. Follow him on Twitter at His views and opinions do not necessarily reflect those of Penn State University.
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