Penn State will play its final game of the 2021 regular season this weekend on the road against Michigan State. The Nittany Lions appear to have the kind of offense that could capitalize on Michigan State’s biggest weak link, its pass defense, and the return of Sean Clifford to the starting lineup should give the Nittany Lions a puncher’s chance on the road in East Lansing.
Win or lose, Penn State is already locked into a disappointing fourth-place finish in the Big Ten East Division this season. A win will give Penn State a 5-4 record in Big Ten play, but still leave them one game behind the Spartans in the division standings. A loss would hand Penn State a second straight losing season in Big Ten play but the Nittany Lions would still be a game ahead of either Maryland or Rutgers, who face each other with bowl eligibility on the line for the Terrapins and Scarlet Knights.
With Penn State locked into a fourth-place finish within the division, any chance of playing in a New Years Day bowl game appears to be well out of reach at this late stage of the season. That leaves Penn State floating in the sea of pre-New Years Day bowl games to be available for. And according to various bowl projections updated this week, Penn State could be playing in a range of bowl games from the Music City Bowl, the Duke’s Mayo Bowl, the Las Vegas Bowl the Pinstripe Bowl.
Erick Smith of USA TODAY Sports currently has Penn State heading to the Las Vegas Bowl to take on the Washignton State Cougars. He’s not alone in projecting a trip to Las Vegas and its brand new football mecca in the desert. Brett McMurphy of The Action Network also has the Nittany Lions heading to the Las Vegas Bowl, although he has Penn State projected to face Chip Kelly and the UCLA Bruins in the Big Ten vs. Pac-12 matchup.
While there is still a range of bowl projections out there for Penn State, one of the trendier projections appears to be the Music City Bowl, which would send Penn State to Nashville to face an SEC opponent. Here is an updated look at what some of the bowl projections from various sources are forecasting for Penn State before the final game of the regular season.
Music City Bowl
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Penn State vs. Missouri
Richard Johnson, Sports Illustrated: Penn State vs. Auburn
Kyle Bonagura, ESPN: Penn State vs. Arkansas
The Music City Bowl has been one of the more popular projections for Penn State over the last few weeks as Penn State slid down the Big Ten pecking order. All things considered, the Music City Bowl would offer a fun destination in Nashville, and it would lead to a matchup with a team from the SEC. And in the case of one projection, it could offer a potential rematch with Auburn.
Penn State defeated Auburn earlier this season at home and the Nittany Lions are heading to Auburn next September, so the appeal of a postseason bowl game with Auburn now doesn’t feel all that interesting.
Brad Crawford, 247 Sports: Penn State vs. Arizona State
Penn State has some good history in the Alamo Bowl, and it’s been a long time since the Nittany Lions hooked up with the Arizona State Sun Devils. Herm Edwards and the Sun Devils have had a solid season and the coaching matchup alone would serve up plenty of quotes from both sides. And a trip to the Alamo Bowl is up there when it comes to the mid-tier bowl games.
College Football News: Penn State vs. Virginia
Mark Schlabach, ESPN: Penn State vs. Virginia
Penn State head coach James Franklin coached the Nittany Lions to a victory in the Pinstripe Bowl in his first season in Happy Valley, and a return trip to the Bronx could be in the mix if these bowl projections have anything to say about it. In both cases, a matchup with Virginia would be the outcome in Yankee Stadium.
Las Vegas Bowl
Erick Smith, USA TODAY Sports: Penn State vs. Washington State
Brett McMurphy, The Action Network: Penn State vs. UCLA
As mentioned earlier, the Las Vegas Bowl is in the mix as a potential destination as well. Penn State has yet to play a bowl game in Las Vegas, and the Las Vegas Bowl could become a bigger destination in the December bowl lineup with the brand new football stadium.
Of the two matchups projected, a matchup with UCLA would probably be more intriguing than a matchup with the Cougars of Washington State.
Duke’s Mayo Bowl
Bill Bender, The Sporting News: Penn State vs. Clemson
If somebody told you at the start of the season that Penn State would be playing Clemson in the bowl season, you likely would have been thrilled. But this is far from a College Football Playoff clash this year. Both Penn State and Clemson have not had the seasons they have come to expect, perhaps more so for Dabo Swinney and the Tigers. Despite tough seasons, Clemson could still be a real challenge for Penn State, and the Tigers are one of a handful of schools to never have lost a game against Penn State. Could Penn State even the score?