Even with loss to Iowa, Penn State can reach its goals
Yes, it’s a big game.
A huge game? Sure.
It’s the most important day in Iowa’s Kinnick Stadium since God knows when, and it’s a big day for Penn State, too.
College Gameday should be in Iowa City instead of Dallas for the frankly overrated Red River Shootout, but nonetheless, anybody who follows college football knows what Penn State and Iowa have in front of them.
It’s the first time two top-five Big 10 teams not named Ohio State or Michigan have played since JFK was president, and if either school is to make it into the college football playoff, this Saturday will be thought back to even more.
For Penn State, however, this game isn’t do-or-die as far as College Football Playoff and National Title hopes are concerned.
For Iowa, it might be do-or-die.
The Hawkeyes are going to coast into the Big 10 championship game because of the Big 10 West. If the Big 10 East is a buff high school jock who gets all the girls, the Big 10 West, outside of Iowa City, is the kid that dropped out of school and stole a car the next day. After Penn State, Iowa has three home games against Purdue, Minnesota and Illionis and three road games at Wisconsin, Northwestern and Nebraska. None of those teams are ranked, and the biggest test Iowa faces, Wisconsin, is 1-3.
So if Iowa wins today, it has a clear path to an undefeated regular season. If it loses, however, there’s a chance the Hawkeyes’ national title hopes evaporate.
Thanks to the Murderers Row that is the east, if Penn State loses today, it still has a chance to beat Ohio State and Michigan State on the road and Michigan at home. If Penn State is to go 11-1, it would then get a chance to avenge that one blemish against Iowa in the Big 10 title game.
It will be hard to keep a team with wins over the Buckeyes, the Michigan teams and Iowa (plus a nonconference win over Auburn earlier) out of the playoff.
If Iowa doesn’t finish unbeaten, the Hawkeyes could still make it to the dance, but putting them in over a likely-unbeaten Cincinitti might be difficult. Because Indiana and Iowa State, the two teams the Hawkeyes beat to open the year, have underachieved, it’s possible that, if Iowa is to win the Big 10 championship with one loss, its only impressive win would be in that championship game.
Penn Staters are nervous about today’s game, and understandably so. But if the Nittany Lions lose, there’s a good chance they still control their destiny. Iowa might not have that going for it. Therefore, more pressure is on the Hawkeyes. I’m not sure who, if anybody, that benefits. In any case, it’s going to be a fun day. So buckle up.