Penn State still has a path to saving its postseason hopes, in a certain kind of way.
It just must win its final regular season game against Rutgers, then at Top 10 Michigan State — a reasonable accomplishment in spite of its continued struggles over the past six weeks.
Win the final two games and at least the Nittany Lions should be playing in Florida on New Year's Day.
While still quite a ways from their hopes when starting 5-0 this fall — winning a Big Ten title, qualifying for their first College Football Playoff bid — this would be a bit of a salve.
No matter, Penn State will still play in a bowl game somewhere.
And there are only three good choices left as it prepares for Rutgers in Saturday's Senior Day in Beaver Stadium.
Here are their possible destinations for the holidays:
Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, Tampa, Florida
This almost certainly will require the Lions to win the next two weekends.
This is the highest they can reach and would provide opportunity: You could do a lot worse than a traditional New Year's Day game in a warm climate against an SEC team.
Beating two Top 25 teams to end the season would show a measure of recovery and fight in this team as well as provide a nice jumping off point to next season. The beginnings of James Franklin's top recruiting class will arrive just a few days later.
Plus, there's the spicy opponent possibility: Kentucky, led by former Penn State backup quarterback Will Levis, is one of the prime targets. (The Lions lost to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl following the 2018 season).
Other possible opponents would be Texas A&M and Mississippi State.
Music City Bowl, Dec. 30, Nashville, Tennessee
Figure on this if the Lions split their remaining games.
It would be a return to Franklin's coaching roots, where he took off as a first-time head coach at Vanderbilt.
Plus, Penn State has never played in the game.
This opponent would still come from the SEC. Arkansas, which the Lions have never played, is one pick.
Pinstripe Bowl, Dec. 29, New York City
Playing in Yankee Stadium would require Penn State to lose its final two games and finish the regular season at 6-6.
This seems the lowest the Lions could fall in the bowl pecking order. While some have predicted the Las Vegas Bowl against a Pac-12 opponent, its doubtful the Lions would welcome a trip to Nevada with a late-night East Coast kickoff on Dec. 30.
Rather, a return to the Pinstripe seems more likely. Penn State ended Franklin's first year in this game (overtime victory vs. Boston College).
Playing here, though, could be a motivation problem this time. They would have dropped six of seven games, their season in complete free-fall.
Would there be enough focus and effort left to avoid stunning, back-to-back losing seasons?
The opponent would be from the Atlantic Coast Conference, such as Virginia.
Frank Bodani covers Penn State football for the York Daily Record and USA Today Network. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @YDRPennState.
This article originally appeared on York Daily Record: Penn State football: Nittany Lions Big Ten bowl game