Penn State can prove it belonged in the College Football Playoff with a win against USC

Penn State can prove that it deserved a spot in the College Football Playoff by winning the Rose Bowl.

Make no mistake about it: Nittany Lion players and fans have every right to be disappointed in the Selection Committee’s decision. After all, Penn State won (arguably) the toughest conference in college football, and beat Ohio State – which made the field – in a head-to-head matchup. With a resume like that, I can see why the Lions felt that they deserved a spot in the College Football Playoff. Yet, given that Penn State had one more loss than both Ohio State and Washington, I understand why the committee did what it did.

Rightly or wrongly, the lineup is set and, there’s nothing that anyone can do to change the outcome. Ohio State and Washington are in the field, and will compete for the national championship. The Nittany Lions will head to the Rose Bowl to play USC.

This contest presents Penn State with a huge opportunity. Although the Nittany Lions can’t win the national championship, they can make the case that they should have had the chance to do so by defeating the Trojans in Pasadena.

Let’s be honest: a victory in the Rose Bowl would earn Penn State plenty of respect on a national scale. And, why shouldn’t it? USC is one of the hottest teams in the country entering the postseason, riding into the Rose Bowl on an eight-game winning streak. The Trojans have been (arguably) the best team in college football during that span, posting impressive wins over both Colorado and Washington.

The last sentence of the previous paragraph is what makes this game so huge for Penn State. A win over USC – the team that handed Washington its only loss of the regular season – would certainly help the Lions make their case that they were one of the four best teams in college football this season. If nothing else, it would re-open the debate in the court of public opinion about whether Penn State or Washington deserved the coveted fourth spot in the field. With a victory against the Trojans, the Nittany Lions would have an even stronger argument than they did on Selection Sunday. While that wouldn’t change anything, it’s definitely something that college football fans would discuss for years to come, much like the “Alabama or Oklahoma State” debate from 2011 and the “Florida State or Miami or Washington” debate from 2000.

Although that’s not the same as winning a national championship, it’s every bit as a memorable.

About Terry P. Johnson

Terry Johnson is the Associate Editor for The Student Section. He is a member of the Football Writers Association of America and the National Football Foundation.