Penn State, at 10-2 and a runner-up in the Big Ten East, is not in the college football playoff discussion. But that doesn’t mean the Nittany Lions haven’t been as good as any team this season. After all, had Penn State had played Ohio State at home and won by 1 point instead of losing on the road the Buckeyes by 1 point, the Nittany Lions wouldn’t be any “better” than they are now, while their record would be much better. An 11-1 Penn State with wins over Ohio State, Iowa, Michigan, and Northwestern, and be a lock to make the college football playoff with a win over Wisconsin in the Big 10 Championship Game.
Penn State ranks 7th in points scored and 7th in points allowed among the 130 teams in the FBS. The Nittany Lions are the only team in the top 10 in both categories, and Alabama (1st in points allowed, 12th in points scored) is the only other team in the top 15 in both; Washington (18th in scoring, 6th in points allowed) is the only other team to rank in the top 20 in both. Penn State has outscored opponents by 26.1 points per game, second to only Alabama (27.6) despite a harder schedule. Penn State lost two games on the road by a total of 4 points; but, even though the Nittany Lions rank 1st in the SRS, the loss to Ohio State — which goes down as the best loss of the season (edging Utah’s 3-point road loss in Washington) — is enough to eliminate them from contention.