College Football Playoff rankings: Penn State No. 9

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A New Year’s Six berth is almost within Penn State’s grasp now.

The Nittany Lions go into league championship weekend ranked No. 9 in the penultimate College Football Playoff rankings, released Tuesday night.

It’s the highest CFP ranking for Penn State (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten) since the selection committee’s first top 25 back on Oct. 31, when the Lions were slotted at No. 7.

A second consecutive road defeat, a 27-24 decision at the hands of Michigan State, subsequently dropped James Franklin’s squad down to No. 14 the very next week.

The Lions have been on the climb ever since, finishing the regular season with three straight routs of Rutgers, Nebraska and Maryland by an average score of 52-18. Penn State was ranked No. 10 last week.

While the Nittany Lions won’t be able to defend their 2016 Big Ten title this weekend, a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl — the Cotton, Fiesta, Peach or Orange, all of whom will be looking to fill at-large slots — seems almost assured, barring a crazy result or two on Saturday.

No Power 5 school that has wound up among the final CFP top 9 has failed to receive a New Year’s Six invite since the playoff was instituted in the fall of 2014.

The final rankings — as well as the CFP participants and bowl assignments — will be released Sunday.

For a few weeks, a prospective Cotton Bowl matchup for Penn State against Notre Dame seemed like a meeting that ticked every box: Traditional Midwestern/Eastern powers that used to see each other a lot, but haven’t for a while — the Nittany Lions last faced the Fighting Irish in State College back in September 2007.

But then Stanford thumped visiting Notre Dame (9-3) on Saturday night, 38-20, handing the Irish their third loss overall and second de-pantsing in two weeks. Suddenly, a New Year’s Six spot for Brian Kelly feels like a bit of a longshot.

A Penn State berth in the Cotton is still on the table, though, because of the regional preferences of the other New Year’s Six contests.

The Fiesta Bowl is likely to take the Pac-12 champion — USC or Stanford — to fill one of its two at-large slots. The Peach Bowl is expected to do the same with the winner of the AAC championship between UCF and Memphis. The Orange Bowl is obligated to take an ACC team for one of its slots, and pair that team — likely the loser of Clemson-Miami — against the highest-ranked non-champion school from the Big Ten or the SEC, or Notre Dame.

The post College Football Playoff rankings: Penn State No. 9 appeared first on Land of 10.

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