Looking at the College Football Playoff field, Penn State coach James Franklin must wonder how his team got left out.
Some of that thinking is probably because Ohio State got in ahead of the Nittany Lions even though Penn State beat Ohio State and the Nittany Lions won the Big Ten title.
“It’s a little hard when you win the conference and you beat the team that’s making it. Ohio State’s going on. We won the conference and beat them head to head,” Franklin said while on ESPN’s “Mike and Mike” show Monday morning.
One possible reason No. 5 Penn State got left out: non-conference scheduling.
Mike Golic and Mike Greenberg wondered if the CFP selection committee sent a message about non-conference scheduling by picking 12-1 Washington over 11-2 Penn State for the No. 4 spot.
The Nittany Lions played Kent State, at Pitt and Temple. The three teams went a combined 21-16, with Pitt beating Penn State and Clemson. Temple just beat Navy for the American Athletic Conference title. Both the Panthers and Owls are also ranked by the CFP.
Washington played and beat Rutgers, Idaho and Portland State. Those three teams include one FCS team (2-9 Portland State). The three combined to go 12-23.
When asked about the selection committee’s Washington-over-Penn State decision possibly affecting non-conference scheduling (making non-conference games easier), Franklin made it clear.
Franklin said he thinks this will lead to more conversations between coaches and athletic directors about scheduling easier non-conference games.
“Most definitely,” Franklin said. “Let’s remember, Pittsburgh beat Clemson. We beat Temple. Temple is another conference champion. So our resume is really good. There’s no doubt about the conversations with the athletic directors. I’ve been saying this from the beginning. I think a lot of athletic directors were saying, ‘Look, schedule tough out-of-conference teams because that’s going to give us the best chance to be in a situation where you could maybe get two teams from the same conference in.'”
“Listening to all the things that were going on with the committee, I don’t know how to figure out what they’re making their decision based on,” Franklin said. “Because all the things they talk about, in terms of winning your conference, in terms of being able to overcome early losses, the strength of schedule. In the Big Ten, we play nine conference games – we don’t play any I-AA (Football Championship Series) opponents. So our schedules are really good.”
"It's a little hard when you beat the team that is moving on ahead of you in Ohio State"
— Mike & Mike (@MikeAndMike) December 5, 2016
After Sunday’s announcement, CFP committee chair Kirby Hocutt said Penn State’s 49-10 blowout loss to Michigan was a factor.
Though disappointed his team finished one spot away from the top four, Franklin is very proud of what his team has accomplished.
“We’re blessed we’ve had a tremendous season,” Franklin said. “Once again, we’re Big Ten champions. We’ve had a heck of a run.”
Next up: USC in the Rose Bowl.
“We all know their talent level is ridiculous. Obviously, their coach is doing a tremendous job,” Franklin said. “They’re a scary team. We’re playing with a lot of confidence right now, we’re playing with a lot of emotion. It’s going to be a battle.”