EAST LANSING, Mich. — With Penn State and most of the Big Ten going dark for the final two weeks of college football’s regular season, Joe Paterno had a couple of ideas to keep the Nittany Lions in the news leading up to the BCS bowl selections.
“I could jump off the roof of my house,” the Penn State coach joked.
As it turns out, though, there will be no need for any publicity stunts from the Lions. Their chief competition for an at-large bid into a BCS game has already finished its schedule as well.
That would be decade-long nemesis Iowa.
At this point, it seems likely that either Penn State or Iowa will join Big Ten champion Ohio State in the BCS. The Buckeyes are already headed to the Rose Bowl, but the Lions or Hawkeyes could end up in the Orange Bowl or the Fiesta Bowl.
Both teams finished the regular season 10-2 with a 6-2 mark in the conference. In the latest BCS standings, Iowa jumped up two spots to No. 11, while the Lions moved up one to No. 13.
Teams that finish in the top 14 are eligible for at-large berths, but only two teams from the same conference can qualify.
Penn State players and coaches largely balked when asked to make their case for a BCS game at the expense of Iowa
“Oh, no – I’m not getting into that,” linebacker Josh Hull laughed.
Quarterback Daryll Clark answered with an emphatic “yes,” when asked if Penn State deserved to go to a BCS bowl. But even the confident senior stammered and dodged the question of whether the Lions deserve it more than Iowa.
Iowa has a strong case because the Hawkeyes knocked off the Lions 21-10 in State College back in September.
Penn State closed with a strong win, while Iowa lost two of its last three contests after starting quarterback Ricky Stanzi went down with a high ankle sprain in Week 10.
Stanzi is expected to be able to play in the bowl game, but bowl committees will look to get updates on his health.
The Orange Bowl sent a representative to Penn State’s 42-14 win at Michigan State, as well as to the Hawkeyes’ 12-0 victory over Minnesota in Iowa City.
Michael Kosnitzky was the Orange Bowl committee member on hand in East Lansing this weekend. He said Penn State would be under strong consideration despite Iowa’s higher BCS ranking and superior resume.
“It’s not just one year,” Kosnitzky said. “You look at historic winning percentage and how the school’s national profile shakes out. Those are all factored in. They’re not weighted in any particular way or ordered, but I don’t want to imply (the decision) is a one-year snapshot.”
Kosnitzky also said Penn State earned itself some style points with its 28-point third-quarter outburst against the Spartans.
“I think that’s a fair statement,” he said. “They were great on both sides of the ball, they came back in the second half and played a terrific game.
Whether that’s enough to earn the Lions the BCS nod remains to be seen. Should it go to Iowa instead, Penn State would be a virtual lock to play in the Capital One Bowl on Jan. 1 instead.
The Lions will find out the night of Dec. 6, when the BCS bowls are all announced.
“We’re a good football team. Are we better than X, Y and Z? I don’t know,” Paterno said. “Obviously I think we could play with anybody. ... Now whether somebody is gonna take us or not in a BCS bowl, I don’t have any control over that.”
Penn State is all but certain to end up in one of these three bowl games, but the Lions won’t find out which one they’re headed to until BCS bids are announced the night of Dec. 6.
1 p.m., Jan. 1
Florida Citrus Bowl, Orlando, Fla.
Possible opponents: Ole Miss, LSU
The skinny: If Iowa lands the BCS bid, this is where Penn State will end up. Florida and Alabama are BCS-bound, so it’s anyone’s guess which SEC team would be picked here.
8 p.m., Jan. 4
University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Ariz.
Possible opponents: TCU, Boise State
The skinny: Oklahoma State would probably have to lose this week for a Big Ten team to end up here. There’s some thought that the Fiesta favors Iowa, which has never played in this game and would bring a strong following out to the desert.
8 p.m., Jan. 5
Land Shark Stadium, Miami
Possible opponents: Georgia Tech, Clemson
The skinny: Arguably Penn State’s best shot at a BCS bid, the opponent would be the winner of the ACC championship game on Dec. 5.