ROAD TO GLORY: College Football Playoff still a reality for No. 8 Penn State Nittany Lions

Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley throws during the first half of an NCAA college football game against Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 12, 2016, in Bloomington, Ind. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)

Penn State was the topic of a lot of conversation on the College Football Playoff ranking show Wednesday night, with the Nittany Lions jumping up two spots to No. 8.

A lot of things have to happen for the Lions to earn a berth in the playoff, but given where they are now, there is a path for it to occur.

The ESPN analysts discussed the possibility of PSU getting into the top four if it wins the Big Ten championship. The Lions would get to the conference title game if they win out and Michigan loses one more time, which could come in the regular-season finale at Ohio State.

Analyst Joey Galloway, a former Ohio State player, said that if Penn State were to beat Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game, he would put the Lions in the playoff over Washington and Louisville.

Galloway even said he would be comfortable if Penn State were ranked ahead of the Buckeyes, who are currently No. 2.

Under the best-case scenario, the Lions would:

-Finish the regular season 10-2-Win perhaps the toughest division in college football, the Big Ten East

-Win perhaps the toughest conference title with a victory over Wisconsin

-Be 11-2 with wins over No. 2 Ohio State and current No. 6 Wisconsin

Louisville (9-1), currently ranked No. 4, has a loss at Clemson (42-36) and beat then-No. 2 Florida State (63-20). But even though the Cardinals have one less loss than Penn State, they only have the one good win over FSU, no other significant victories, and they probably will not win their own conference, the ACC, because Clemson holds the tiebreaker to get to the title game.

Washington (9-1) poses a problem for Penn State because the Huskies still could win the Pac-12 and conference title game. They have a tough game left at No. 22 Washington State, then could face No. 10 Colorado or No. 13 USC in the championship game.

USC just went to Washington and won on Saturday. Even if the Huskies win the Pac-12, their strength of schedule is one of the worst in the country.

The Lions lost to Pitt in week two, so having two losses will hurt their chances. But as the ESPN analysts speculated Tuesday, winning the conference title game to go along with the win over Ohio State would make Penn State an appealing Final Four candidate.

Playoff committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said late Tuesday that he would not have any issues with two teams from the same conference being in the playoff.

“The Committee has the flexibility if we believe that two of the best four teams are from the same conference to make that decision,” Hocutt said.

Penn State coach James Franklin wanted no part of talking about any of the goings on in college football when asked Tuesday (see Coach Speak for more on that).

Tight end Mike Gesicki gave a big smile when asked his feelings after seeing Iowa stun Michigan on Saturday. But he kept his answer down the middle.

“You kind of know how it goes,” Gesicki said. “I’m not going to comment on any of that kind of stuff. But obviously it was definitely an exciting game to watch.”

Defensive back Christian Campbell also was asked about Iowa’s upset.

“I mean, yeah, I saw that Iowa beat Michigan,” he said. “But the only thing that my focus was on was Rutgers. So that’s the only thing I’d like to talk about right now.”

Clearly, Franklin has his players focused only on what they can control, which is their own upcoming games against Rutgers and Michigan State.

“The thing we’re focusing on the most is like just doing more this week than we did last week, which means by studying more film, coming in more, just doing everything right, and doing my job and just doing more than I did last week,” Campbell said.


Franklin confirmed that starting left tackle Paris Palmer was lost for the season with an undisclosed injury at Indiana.

The Lions already had lost starting right tackle Andrew Nelson for the season. Right tackle Brendan Mahon also is out injured, but Franklin seemed optimistic that he can return.

Right guard Connor McGovern also was injured at Indiana, and Franklin said it’s still too early to tell if he will be able to play this week.

All of the injuries have opened up the possibility to burn redshirts for true freshmen linemen Will Fries and Michal Menet. Franklin said he had both of them in his office to discuss the scenarios.

“That conversation went really well,” the coach said. “Both those young men and their families are perfectly comfortable with us doing whatever we have to do to win and put the team first.”

Still, Franklin later added that at this point, the coaches are not doing anything with regards to playing those two freshmen. Fries, he added, would be the first one to play since he’s a little further ahead.