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What if PSU loses to Illinois, could it still go to bowl?

We’re all just assuming Penn State will beat a struggling Illinois team, get to 4-5 and then receive a bowl invitation. The players presumably would vote after the game, and there’s little reason to believe they would turn down a chance to go bowling.

But what if the Lions were to lose to Illinois? It would be stunning, no doubt, because the Illini are a mess right now, having fired coach Lovie Smith and coming in as two-touchdown underdogs.

If Illinois somehow wins, it would drop Penn State to 3-6. It would be hard to justify any 3-6 team ever going to a bowl game, even in this crazy 2020. However, this is where the Penn State brand would come into play, plus the availability of teams that could or even would want to go to bowl games because of COVID.

Remember, there are no requirements to have a winning record this season in order to be selected for a bowl game.

The tweet above makes some good points, especially the “follow the money” part.

Actually, the Big Ten gets money from all the bowls its teams play in, then splits that money up among all the teams in the league.

Still, whatever small bowl that would be considering Penn State at 4-5 certainly still could consider the Lions even if they are 3-6, because of one reason: Money.

Well, actually two reasons: Money and TV ratings.

These bowls can pick any team they want. And if a small bowl game out there with a Big Ten tie-in has a chance to get even a 3-6 Penn State team or, say, Rutgers or Maryland or Minnesota, it’s certainly fair to wonder if the Lions would get the benefit of the doubt.

I’ve long joked that I can go to Walmart and get 22 guys to go play a game against Penn State, and even that game would draw 100,000 fans to Beaver Stadium and several million people watching on TV. That is PSU’s brand, and it is powerful.

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So, when it comes down to brass taxes, if the Duke’s Mayo Bowl or the Guaranteed Rate Bowl or the Music City Bowl have a chance to get Penn State or Rutgers or Maryland or Minnesota, only one of those teams would guarantee a large TV audience.

Whether Rutgers or Maryland or Minnesota would even want to go to a bowl game themselves could be a factor, and if they’re healthy enough to. The bowl slots have to be filled by somebody, so if Penn State is healthy and wants to play, it theoretically still could get picked.

Again, I don’t expect any of this to come into play, because I see Penn State blowing out Illinois on Saturday. But it is something to consider, if only in the hypothetical.

Obviously, if Penn State wins Saturday to get to 4-5, it would have every reason to want to go to a bowl game to try and finish the season with a five-game winning streak.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.



  1. Joe Novajosky

    December 18, 2020 at 12:05 pm

    Just started following your site the last few weeks. Very impressed with the writing, content, opinions, videos. Keep up the good work and I’ll look for your wrap up Sun am after evening game vs Illinois

    • Cory Giger

      December 18, 2020 at 12:15 pm

      That’s fantastic, Joe. Thank you for the kind words. I really appreciate it. The goal is to provide fun, informative, interesting content that PSU fans may not be able to get anywhere else.

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