Big Ten-Champion Nittany Lions More Worthy Than Buckeyes

For some reason Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest playoff rankings and Penn State is No. 7. That has to change if Penn State beats Wisconsin on Saturday night.

The protocols are in place.

The question now is, will the College Football Playoff Selection Committee follow them?

Or, are we bracing for the ESPN Invitational?

It’s the responsibility of the Committee, according to the Committee, to select the four-team playoff field “using a process that distinguishes among otherwise comparable teams by considering:

  • “Conference championships won,
  • “Strength of schedule,
  • “Head-to-head competition,
  • “Comparative outcomes of common opponents (without incenting margin of victory), and,
  • “Other relevant factors such as key injuries that may have affected a team’s performance during the season or likely will affect its postseason performance.”

Penn State and Ohio State are comparable teams based on both being in the Top 10 in the latest playoff rankings, both being in the Big Ten and both being in the East Division of the Big Ten.

There are two significant differences.

Penn State beat Ohio State, 24-21, on Oct. 21.

And Penn State will be playing in the Big Ten Championship Game on Saturday night in Indianapolis, and Ohio State will not.

Those are facts, not interpretations.

But for some reason Ohio State is ranked No. 2 in the latest playoff rankings and Penn State is No. 7.

That has to change if Penn State beats Wisconsin on Saturday night.

A Penn Sate team that improves to 11-2 overall with a head-to-head victory over Ohio State and a Big Ten Championship under its belt has to be ranked ahead of a 11-1 Ohio State team that failed to reach its conference championship game.

Even one that has victories over Oklahoma and Michigan to its credit.

Winning a conference championship has meant everything to the Committee previously.

But this year there are those awaiting the Committee’s decision who insist it should not this time as it relates to the Nittany Lions and the Buckeyes.

Ohio State is clearly the superior team, it’s being argued.

There are two problems with that.

One, the Big Ten standings say otherwise, and the Committee has been “properly instructed (based on the beliefs that the regular season is unique and must be preserved).”

And Two, Penn State isn’t the same team that lost to Pitt and got hammered by Michigan.

Based on the early returns, it seemed much more likely Penn State would lose to Minnesota on Oct. 1 and head coach James Franklin would lose his job at season’s end than it was that Penn State would run the table and Franklin would be the Big Ten media’s pick for Coach of the Year.

But here we are.

Penn State rallied from a 13-3 halftime deficit, tied Minnesota on a last-play-of-regulation field goal and won in overtime.

And the Nittany Lions haven’t stopped winning since.

They’re healthier, more explosive, more competitive, more complete and unbeaten since that Michigan debacle (49-10 on Sept. 24), including the aforementioned head-to-head victory over Ohio State.

There are probably a couple of reasons why so many apparently haven’t noticed.

One, that lasting first impression wasn’t flattering.

And two, the program is still stained by the Sandusky tragedy, and even a playoff berth isn’t going to wash away.

But the Committee isn’t supposed to be influenced by any of that.

The Committee is supposed to be above the “eye test” and other such perceptive assumptions.

The protocols are in place.

And there isn’t an asterisk attached to prevent a less-marketable, less-appealing field of four than everyone initially anticipated.

If Penn State wins on Saturday night, Penn State deserves to be in, period.

To leave a Big Ten-champion Penn State squad out would invalidate the entire tournament, the entire process.

Not to mention College Football Playoff Selection Committee protocol.


Categories: Mike Prisuta’s Sports Section