Penn State beat Rutgers last Saturday to improve to 7-4.
It was a positive from a postseason perspective, as the Nittany Lions are now in a position to close out the season on a winning streak.
That would require a victory over Michigan State on Saturday, of course. Head coach James Franklin’s team is a small favorite prior to kickoff, which is set for 3:30 p.m. ET on ABC. Both teams have some health issues prior to kickoff.
“We faced as much adversity in this game as I’ve been around,” Penn State coach James Franklin said after beating the Scarlet Knights. “We had 35 guys out for one reason or another. 21 guys because of the flu. 14 guys who had the flu and played through it.
“A lot of good things, obviously a lot of things to correct as well. Hopefully, we’ll get everybody back. We had a few more issues here after the game, hopefully, we’ll get everybody back for next week because obviously, we’re going to need it on the road against a great opponent.”
Here are the latest expert Penn State postseason projections entering the regular season finale.
Expert bowl projections for Penn State
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports: Music City Bowl vs. Arkansas
Kyle Bonagua of ESPN: Music City Bowl vs. Arkansas
Mark Schlabach of ESPN: Pinstripe Bowl vs. Virginia
Action Network: Las Vegas Bowl vs. UCLA
Saturday Tradition: Las Vegas Bowl against Oregon State
Athlon Sports: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona State
The first surprise here is that none of the national experts envision Penn State playing in the Outback Bowl.
It was not what this space expected to see this week. An 8-4 Nittany Lions team would surely be attractive to bowl organizers. Most projections have either Wisconsin or Iowa ending up in the Jan. 1 game. Penn State beat the Badgers and would have topped the Hawkeyes if quarterback Sean Clifford did not go down with an injury before halftime. Despite it not being listed, don’t rule out the Tampa, Fla., contest.
Penn State would need a victory against the Spartans to make it, however. This week’s projections suggest that they will lose despite being a small favorite. If so, then either the Music City Bowl or the Las Vegas Bowl make the most sense. We’re extremely hard-pressed to see the Lions end up in the Pinstripe Bowl. That feels more like a spot for Maryland or Rutgers if one becomes bowl eligible, or possibly Minnesota if not.
There is definitely more of a Las Vegas Bowl vibe this week than last, but we’ll keep our prediction the same for now and point the Lions toward the Music City Bowl. That game is scheduled for Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. ET inside of Nissan Stadium in Nashville.