With seven wins under the belts for the 2021 college football season, Penn State is heading to a postseason bowl game. It may not be the grand bowl destination it looked as though Penn State could be on track for in the first half of the season, but after sitting out of the bowl season voluntarily in 2020 Penn State will take whatever opportunity it gets to travel to a bowl game this bowl season.
But projecting the Big Ten’s bowl picture heading into conference championship weekend is still a big guessing game. A Michigan victory over Iowa in the Big Ten Championship Game will send the Wolverines off to the College Football Playoff, allowing every team in the Big Ten to be bumped up a spot in the Big Ten bowl picture, meaning Ohio State could head to the Rose Bowl without so much as a division championship. But an Iowa win still throws a few curveballs our way.
But as for Penn State, a spot in a pre-January 1 appears to be the only outcome for the Nittany Lions. It’s just a matter of playing before or after Christmas at this point.
With bowl announcements coming up later this weekend, here is where Penn State is currently being projected for the bowl season by a variety of national experts.
Penn State linebacker Sean Lee during the 2007 Outback Bowl between Penn State and Tennessee on January 1, 2007. (Photo by A. Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Arizona State’s Chris DeFrance fumbles on his won 26-yard line after being hit by Penn State’s defense in first quarter action in Tempe, Ariz., Dec. 25, 1977. Penn State’s Matt Millen (60) and Tom DePaso (95) move in for the ball as Neil Hutton (26) looks on. Penn State went on to score its second touchdown. (AP Photo)
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona State
Brett Davis-USA TODAY Sports
Mark Schlabach of ESPN: Pinstripe Bowl vs. North Carolina
Jim McIsaac/Getty Images
Steve Lassan of Athlon Sports: Pinstripe Bowl vs. North Carolina
Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports
Brad Crawford of 247Sports: Las Vegas Bowl vs. Arizona State
The Action Network
Sep 4, 2021; Pasadena, California, USA; UCLA Bruins quarterback Dorian Thompson-Robinson (1) runs the ball against the Louisiana State Tigers defense during the second half at the Rose Bowl. Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports
Brett McMurphy of The Action Network: Las Vegas Bowl vs. UCLA
Jan 1, 1994; Orlando, FL, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions running back Ki-Jana Carter (32) in action against the Tennessee Volunteers during the 1994 Citrus Bowl. Mandatory Credit: Photo By USA TODAY Sports
Richard Johnson of Sports Illustrated: Gator Bowl vs. Tennessee
College Football News
Jan 2, 2021; Miami Gardens, FL; North Carolina Tar Heels quarterback Sam Howell (7) runs with the football against the Texas A&M Aggies during the second quarter of the game at Hard Rock Stadium. Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports
Pete Fiutak of College Football News: Pinstripe Bowl vs. North Carolina
Quick thoughts on Penn State's bowl outlook
The two most popular bowl projections appear to be the Music City Bowl and the Pinstripe Bowl, and each would serve up a decent opponent for Penn State to prepare for. Whether it is a surprising Arkansas from the sEC, an improving Tennessee program, or Sam Howell and North Carolina, Penn State would have their hands full.
A Penn State-North Carolina matchup would pair up two teams that had disappointing seasons in 2021, giving each a chance to save at least a little bit of face at the end of the year. North Carolina was riding a hype train entering the season with quarterback Sam Howell considered among the favorites for the Heisman Trophy. But the Tar Heels far from lived up to the hype this season.
And, perhaps, neither did Penn State.