You want to hear something crazy? Even if Penn State NEVER beats Ohio State again, the Nittany Lions still could make the College Football Playoff in many years — if indeed the field is expanded to 12 teams, as is being reported.
Furthermore, Penn State could fall to BOTH Ohio State AND lose another game, and still have a very good shot at reaching the playoff.
Wait … what?
Yep. The possibility of having 12 teams in the playoff could turn out to be fabulous for Penn State, based on recent history and what we think could happen in the future.
If the CFP field had been 12 teams in recent years:
** Penn State (10-2) would have made the playoff in 2019, when it lost to Ohio State and Minnesota, yet finished the regular season ranked No. 10 in the CFP.
** Penn State (9-3) would have made the playoff in 2018, even with three losses to Ohio State, Michigan State and and Michigan, yet finished the regular season ranked No. 12 in the CFP.
** Penn State (10-2) would have made the playoff in 2017, when it lost at Ohio State and at Michigan State, yet finished the regular season ranked No. 9 in the CFP.
** And of course, Penn State (10-2) easily would have made it in 2016, when it beat Ohio State and won the Big Ten title but lost at Pitt and at Michigan and finished the regular season No. 5 in the CFP.
So, the Lions would have made the playoffs four straight years if 12 teams had been invited. And they would have made it three years in a row despite losing to Ohio State.
Heck, the Lions would have made it in 2018 even with three losses, including one to Ohio State. Furthermore, there would have been FOUR three-loss teams in a 12-team playoff in 2018, with Washington, Florida and LSU all joining Penn State in the top 12 despite three losses.
That. Is. Insane.
Look, I have long been against expanding the playoff field because it would water down the greatest regular season in American sports. Every game has always mattered a great deal in college football, and I’d like to keep it that way.
Having four three-loss teams in a 12-team playoff, which would have been the case in 2018, would be ridiculous.
But I give up. There’s no sense arguing anymore.
Expansion is coming to the College Football Playoff.
It’s inevitable, because there’s way too much money involved, and so many people simply want it to happen. So it’s gonna happen.
I don’t have to like it, but I will get used to it.
Penn State fans, given the evidence up above, should be ecstatic about the field expanding to 12 teams. It would create a path that, while not easy, certainly would be much, much more manageable with regards to earning a playoff spot.
Even if PSU loses to Ohio State every year and fails to win the Big Ten East, a very reasonable path to the playoff could still be there. The Lions could lose another game, and in a large number of scenarios, still could finish in the top 12 and earn a berth.
Can Penn State get good enough to be able to win a national title in the coming years? That’s debatable. Alabama, Clemson and Ohio State are still better, more successful programs.
However, Penn State can remain a major player on the national scene simply by finishing second to Ohio State in the Big Ten East and doing well enough throughout the rest of the schedule to finish in the top 12 and get in the playoff.
It wouldn’t be a surprise, with all the resources Penn State has and will continue to have, that the Lions could find themselves reaching the playoff 4-5 times a decade, if not more, in a 12-team field.