Let's Be Frank 2022

As the 2022 regular season winds down, Penn State’s postseason fate is becoming clear.

Assuming the Nittany Lions win their last homestand against Michigan State on Saturday en route to a 10-2 record, it’s still not looking as if they’ll qualify for a New Year’s Six bowl game, even if they’ve looked like a top-10 team since Week 6.

The reality is, Penn State hasn’t played enough ranked teams this year, and when it has — against Ohio State and Michigan — it's lost.

It’s the same problem for undefeated teams Ohio State and Michigan, who will have to fight over a playoff spot next weekend and leave the loser on the outside looking in.

There just wasn’t enough talent across the Big Ten this year to push two one-loss conference teams into the playoff and grant a third a spot in a New Year’s Six bowl game.

That third team is Penn State, a team that probably deserves an appearance in either the Rose Bowl, Orange Bowl or Cotton Bowl but won’t make the cut.

The loser of Ohio State and Michigan will take the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl spot, while Alabama will likely head to the Orange Bowl and Tennessee to the Cotton Bowl.

The Crimson Tide and Volunteers have both had an absolute roller coaster of a season, each being two-loss teams with losses to top-10 opponents — one of Alabama’s losses being to Tennessee.

Despite beating the Crimson Tide and LSU, the Volunteers lost by multiple touchdowns to No. 1 Georgia and got smoked 63-38 by 7-4 South Carolina on Saturday.

Still, they have ranked wins, something Penn State does not.

It’s frustrating for the Nittany Lions, considering they’re playing their best football in three years, with two losses to top-10 teams in Michigan and Ohio State, while blowing just about every other opponent out of the water.

The run game has returned to light, led by freshman standouts Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen, both of whom have surpassed 700 rushing yards this season. Meanwhile, Manny Diaz has coached to perfection in his first season as the team’s defensive coordinator.

As of right now, there’s really only two routes to a New Year’s Six bowl game for Penn State — Alabama either has to lose to 5-6 Auburn or Tennessee has to lose to 5-6 Vanderbilt, both of which are extremely unlikely.

What is likely is that Penn State heads to the Citrus Bowl, a game falling just outside of New Year’s Six qualifications, and will face an SEC opponent in the postseason for the second year in a row.

That team, granted Alabama and Tennessee both win on Saturday, is almost a lock to be Ole Miss if the Rebels knock off Mississippi State this weekend.

After a 7-0 start, Ole Miss has struggled tremendously over the past four weeks, falling to LSU, Alabama and, most recently, Arkansas.

Even with opt-outs likely to occur, given the Citrus Bowl is outside of the New Year’s Six sphere, Penn State should have no trouble against the Rebels, especially considering it’s been without its two projected first-round picks Olu Fashanu and Joey Porter Jr. for the past couple of weeks anyway.

Let’s be Frank, the Nittany Lions could compete with most any team in the top 10, but they likely won’t ever make it inside due to their lack of quality wins.

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