Sometimes it can be beneficial to have a bye week.
After letting a golden opportunity slip through the fingers last week against Ohio State, Penn State enjoyed a bye week in Week 6. Despite not playing a down, there is a good chance Penn State could move up in the rankings on Sunday, although it is not necessarily a given that will be the case. Three teams ranked ahead of Penn State in the AP Top 25 went down in defeat on Saturday, suggesting Penn State stands a reasonable chance of re-entering the top 10 when the ballots are submitted.
LSU and Oklahoma no longer unbeaten
The first two teams to go down were No. 5 LSU (No. 6 in the coaches poll) and No. 7 Oklahoma (No. 5 in the coaches poll). Both teams suffered their first loss of the season, with Oklahoma losing a thriller against Texas in the Red River Rivalry and LSU losing later in the day in Gainesville against Florida. With Penn State ranked No. 11 in both polls, it is not necessarily a given the Nittany Lions will pass both or either the Sooners or Tigers. LSU would seem to have a stronger case for staying ahead of Penn State in the new polls thanks to having wins away from home against Miami and Auburn (more on Auburn in a moment). Say what you might, LSU’s resume just looks better than Penn State’s right now, so don’t be surprised if LSU stays ahead of Penn State in the new polls, as their loss to Florida was a 27-19 setback that was much closer than the score indicates.
Oklahoma is a different story. The Sooners have no wins against ranked opponents, just like Penn State and they lost their only game against a ranked team this season, just like Penn State. With a smaller difference between the two rankings of Oklahoma and Penn State, there is a chance for Penn State to move ahead of the defending Big 12 champions for a couple of reasons. First, Penn State lost by one point to the No. 3 team in the country. The loss did come at home though, while Oklahoma’s three-point loss came on the road. But if you want to dig real deep into this, Oklahoma lost to Texas, and the only team to beat the Longhorns this year is Maryland, a team in Penn State’s division. Does that give the Big Ten a nod over the Big 12? It could.
Watch out for Texas? Florida?
However, pay close attention to how Texas moves up in the rankings, and do not be stunned if some voters put the Longhorns ahead of Penn State. Despite losing to Maryland, Texas all of a sudden has three wins against top 25 opponents (USC, TCU, and now Oklahoma). Texas has the resume in their favor in terms of quality wins, but will it be enough to jump at least eight spots to move in front of Penn State? It will depend on the voter, most likely, but yeah, that could happen.
Florida should skyrocket up the polls this week too, although seeing them make enough of a jump up the rankings to pass Penn State may not be likely. At No. 22, Florida will make a nice move up the rankings after beating the No. 5 team. It would make sense to have Florida ranked ahead of LSU, but we already went over how LSU could stand a reasonable chance of staying ranked ahead of Penn State. The Gators may not be able to make the jump, although, once again, Florida has the quality win that Penn State does not.
Auburn lost too
Former Penn State offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead did the Nittany Lions a bit of a favor Saturday night in Starkville. Mississippi State handing No. 8 Auburn (No. 9 in coaches poll) a 23-9 loss for Moorhead’s first SEC win will guarantee Auburn falls out of the top 25 and well behind Penn State. This was Auburn’s second loss of the season, and there is no way you could argue keeping Auburn in front of Penn State now.
What about Washington?
Although they did not lose, it is fair to wonder how voters may look at Washington. The Huskies turned in a well-times blowout of BYU last week as Penn State took a loss, helping Washington come in ahead of Penn State in both major polls at No. 10 in each, one spot ahead of Penn State.
But the team that beat Washington (Auburn) has now lost twice and BYU was dominated at home Friday night by Utah State. So how good was that win anyway? On top of that, Washington only defeated UCLA by seven points (31-24). The Huskies have three Pac-12 wins against Utah (21-7), Arizona State (27-20), and UCLA (31-24). Washington feels like a good team, but these close calls should catch up to them. Like Penn State, Washington does not have a win over a ranked team this season and they lost their only game against a ranked opponent by five points.
Maybe not playing hurts Penn State’s chances of passing Washington, but we’ll see. Washington is a good team, but there are a lot of close results stacking up for them.
Bottom line, will Penn State be in the top 10?
Yes. When the polls come out Sunday, Penn State fans should expect to see the Nittany Lions in the top 10. It is just a matter of where exactly they stand against the suddenly crowded group of one-loss teams.
At the very least, Penn State is looking at a No. 10 ranking in the polls. Climbing as high as No. 8 could be a possibility, jumping Auburn and Oklahoma in the process as well as wiggling ahead of Washington, but No. 9 may be the most likely ceiling given the shuffling of the deck after the first few top spots.