There’s no guarantee that Penn State will playing a bowl game. It is 2020, after all.
But if they do play a 10th game in this pandemic year, it very well may be in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl on Saturday, December 26 or Duke’s Mayo Bowl on Wednesday, December 30.
Possible opponents include Kansas State, TCU and West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate and N.C. State and Virginia Tech in Duke’s Mayo.
With a win against Lovie-less Illinois on Saturday in Beaver Stadium, Penn State would be 4-5 and have a shot at finishing with a .500 record — seemingly an impossible task after starting the season 0-5.
A strong case can be made that the 2020 season has already put a heavy emotional and physical strain on Penn State’s players and prolonging the season even by another week to 10 days — especially in an empty, on-campus, over Christmas, away from their families — would be asking too much of amateur athletes.
However, those athletes do have a voice:
And if Penn State’s players have a vote, everyone who was asked about bowl games in Zoom interviews the past week — graduating seniors, underclassmen and those on the fence about the NFL — said he would like to play a 10th game.
Here’s what they have to say about extending their season past Illinois next Saturday:
QB Sean Clifford: ‘We want to get as many wins as we can this year. With next week and whatever happens after that.’
O-lineman Will Fries: ‘The opportunity to compete against another team and get another game in for Penn State — I would love the opportunity. It would be a great time to compete and get better.’
QB Will Levis: ‘If a bowl game is offered to us, I want to play in a bowl. I’m never going to get a chance to play football and not take it. I don’t know what we’re going to do, what our decision is going to be. We’re not focused on that right now; we’re focused in our next Big Ten game next week against whoever our opponent is.’
Safety Jaquan Brisker: ‘Yes. We’re really just focused on the next game. But if that’s possible? Of course. We’re a family here. I want to see all of us together.’
WR Jahan Dotson: ‘Yeah, definitely. I wouldn’t want any other thing than to play with my brothers. At the end of the day, you only get so many opportunities to suit up in the blue and white on Saturdays, so any opportunity I can get to play with those guys in the locker room and fight for them, that’s what I’ve been doing for three years. I wouldn’t have it any other way. Absolutely.’
For his part, Penn State coach James Franklin was non-committal about his team playing a 10th game when asked last week‚ before the Michigan State game, which Penn State won, 39-24 — its third win in 15 days.
‘We haven’t talked about it because bowl games keep getting canceled,’ said Franklin, whose bowl game record at Penn State is 3-3 and was 2-1 at Vanderbilt. ‘Every other day, you see bowl games getting canceled. There are no bowl requirements in terms of the number of wins this year, so it’s just hard to predict, it’s hard to know.’
ACC schools Virginia, Boston College and Pitt have already opted out of appearing in a postseason game. There are 33 postseason bowl games in 2020, not counting the CFP championship game. Eleven bowl games have already been cancelled. For this season only, the NCAA has waived the requirement that teams must have a .500 record to appear in a bowl game.
GUARANTEED RATE BOWL
Three media outlets have Penn State playing in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl in Phoenix, Arizona: Kyle Bonagura of ESPN (PSU vs. West Virginia); Brad Crawford of 247Sports (TCU) and Athlon Sports (Kansas State).
With the game on the 26th, Penn State would have a week to prepare and travel. The bowl game kicks off at 10:15 p.m. Eastern time, and is played at Chase Field, home of the Major League Baseball’s Arizona Diamondbacks. It will be broadcast by ESPN.
The Guaranteed Rate Bowl was originally the Copper Bowl, and through the years has been known as the Insight Bowl, the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, the Cactus Bowl and the Cheez-It Bowl. 2020 is the first year that Guaranteed Rate — a mortgage lender based in Chicago — is the title sponsor. The bowl is run by the same organization that puts on the Fiesta Bowl.
Kansas State — The Wildcats (4-6, 4-5 Big 12) lost won on Oct. 24. They opened the year with a loss, then won four straight games, including a 38-35 victory over then-No. 3 Oklahoma, and TCU. They are riding a five-game losing streak that included a 45-0 blowout by Iowa State and was culminated by a 69-31 loss at home to Texas on December 5, which was their most recent contest.
TCU — The Horned Frogs finished its 2020 regular season with a 6-4 record (5-4 Big 12). They won five of their last six games, wrapping up their regular season at home on Saturday with a 52-10 win over Louisiana Tech. They had high-profile victories over both Texas (33-31) and Oklahoma State (29-22). TCU QB Max Duggan led veteran coach Gary Patterson’s squad in passing (10 TDs) and rushing (10 TDs). Patterson has an 11-6 bowl game record, including wins in four of his last five postseason contests.
West Virginia — As unbelievable as this sounds, Penn State last played West Virginia in football in 1992, a 40-26 victory in Morgantown. The teams had played every year from 1947-1992. PSU leads the series 48-9-2. In 2020, WVU is 5-4 (4-4 Big 12). The Mountaineers’ Dec. 12 game against Oklahoma was canceled, as the WVU football team paused all team activities for seven days on December 10. That game was to be a make-up for the original November 28 West Virginia-Oklahoma match-up, which was postponed. WVU’s last game was December 5, a 42-6 loss at Iowa State.
DUKE’S MAYO BOWL
Mark Schlabach of ESPN (PSU vs. Virginia Tech) and Jerry Palm of CBS Sports (N.C. State) have Penn State playing in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte, North Carolina.
With the game on the 30th, Penn State would have 11 days to prepare and travel. The game kicks off at noon Eastern time Bank of America Stadium, home of the NFL’s Carolina Panthers.
2020 is the first year that Duke’s Mayo — the nation’s self-proclaimed third-largest mayonnaise brand, which advertises a special recipe that uses no sugar and was created in 1917 in South Carolina by Eugenia Duke — is the title sponsor. Previously, the bowl was known as the Continental Tire Bowl, the Meineke Car Care Bowl and the Belk Bowl.
N.C. State — The Wolfpack last played on December 5, a 23-13 win over Georgia Tech. They finished the regular season 8-3 (7-3 in the ACC) and are riding a four-game winning streak that included a 15-14 win over Liberty at home. Dave Doeren’s squad is led by QB Bailey Hockman, who threw for 12 TDs, and the running back combo of Zonovan Knight and Ricky Person Jr., who combined for 1,371 yards and 14 TDs.
Virginia Tech — This would be so on brand for crazy 2020, considering Penn State’s original schedule for this season included a Week 2 visit to Blacksburg on Sept. 12, which was canceled when the Big Ten went to conference games only. Tech started 2020 strong, going 4-2, then dropped four straight games — with losses to Liberty, Miami (Fla.), Pitt and Clemson. They closed the regular season Saturday with a 33-15 win over Virginia, to go 5-6 (5-5 in the ACC). Head coach Justin Fuente is 38-26 in five seasons at Tech, with a 1-3 bowl game record.