Penn State’s surprising resurgence took another leap forward Tuesday night.
The Nittany Lions (7-2, 5-1 Big Ten), fresh off a fifth straight victory, moved up to No. 10 in the second edition of the College Football Playoff rankings. This is the highest Penn State has climbed in any of the major polls since the end of the 2009 season, when the Nittany Lions finished No. 8 in the Coaches Poll and No. 9 in the AP Top 25 after an 11-2 season.
Penn State debuted in the CFP rankings last week at No. 12, which was one of the biggest surprises of the night. Penn State backed up that position by dismantling Iowa, 41-14, this past weekend at Beaver Stadium. The Nittany Lions racked up 599 yards on offense and held the Hawkeyes to 30 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
After No. 4 Texas A&M’s loss to Mississippi State, Penn State now has a win over the highest-ranked one-loss team in the nation, No. 5 Ohio State (8-1). The Lions’ résumé is further bolstered by wins against Minnesota (7-2) and Temple (7-3), two teams that are exceeding expectations much like Penn State.
Penn State is currently No. 12 in the AP Poll and No. 14 in the Coaches Poll. The Nittany Lions finish the regular season with games at Indiana and Rutgers and a home date with Michigan State. Should they win out, a spot in one of the New Year’s Six bowl games seems almost certain. It could be the Rose Bowl if Michigan beats Ohio State and the West champion in the conference title game to advance to the CFP.
This continues one of the most dramatic turnarounds in the country this season. Penn State was 2-2 after four games and coming off a 49-10 loss at Michigan before this five-game winning streak.
The Nittany Lions are averaging 38.8 points per game during the winning streak, and have yielded a season-low in rushing yards for Ohio State and Iowa and a season-low in total yards for Maryland. Saquon Barkley has 738 rushing yards during the streak and now leads the Big Ten in rushing (117.2 per game) and yards from scrimmage (145.8).