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Penn State has better College Football Playoff odds than Georgia, Michigan

Georgia and Michigan may be College Football Playoff regulars at this point, but Penn State has better odds than both teams of making the 2023 CFP.



Penn State football, KeAndre Lambert-Smith, transfer portal, James Franklin
Sep 23, 2023; University Park, Pennsylvania, USA; Penn State Nittany Lions wide receiver KeAndre Lambert-Smith (1) reacts after scoring a touchdown during the fourth quarter against the Iowa Hawkeyes at Beaver Stadium. Penn State defeated Iowa 31-0. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

We are less than four weeks away from the release of the first College Football Playoff rankings for 2023. There’s still plenty of football to be played between now and then. Still, the Playoff picture is starting to come more into focus. After a 5-0 start, Penn State football finds itself in the thick of the Playoff hunt, currently ranked as the No. 6 team in the nation. But according to the ESPN College Football Playoff predictor, the Nittany Lions have more than a fighter’s chance to make James Franklin’s first Playoff appearance this year. Analytics produced by ESPN currently give Penn State better odds than Georgia and Michigan to make the Playoff at season’s end.

Penn State football has better odds than Georgia, Michigan to make College Football Playoff

At this point in the season, College Football Playoff predictions fluctuate wildly from week to week. Indeed, Penn State football has been slotted anywhere from the CFP’s No. 2 seed right behind Georgia to an at-large New Year’s Six Bowl bid in the last few weeks.

However, the ESPN College Football Playoff predictor has given the Nittany Lions high odds of making the Playoff for quite some time. Currently at 33%, ESPN analytics gives Penn State the 5th best odds of making the Playoff this year. The full top 5 is as follows

  1. Ohio State (54%)
  2. Oklahoma (53%)
  3. Texas (50%)
  4. Oregon (40%)
  5. Penn State (33%)

While none of these teams are major surprises, the shock comes from who the Nittany Lions are ahead of in the Playoff odds. Penn State football is one spot above the 2-time defending national champion Georgia Bulldogs at 30%. At 21%, the Nittany Lions are a full 5 spots ahead of back-to-back Big Ten champion and College Football Playoff participant Michigan.

Path to Playoff has yet to be written for Penn State

The ESPN College Football Playoff predictor considers a team’s performance this season and its remaining schedule. So obviously, there’s still a lot that could change for Penn State football, with matchups against the Buckeyes and Wolverines still on the schedule.

Penn State’s path is highly dependent on these two games. If they win out, ESPN gives the Nittany Lions a 99% chance of making the Playoff. Even if Penn State didn’t win the Big Ten title game, victories over Ohio State and Michigan would have James Franklin’s team with a 66% shot of making the CFP. On the flip side, losses to both the Buckeyes and Wolverines would put the Nittany Lions with less than a 1% chance of making the Playoff.

The gray area comes if Penn State drops one of those 2 games. The Nittany Lions still have high odds to make the College Football Playoff as a 1-loss conference champion, with an 87% or 86% chance to make the Playoff with a loss to Ohio State or Michigan, respectively.

If Penn State suffered a second loss in the Big Ten title game, then its Playoff hopes dive to 3%, regardless of who handed it the first loss. But, like Ohio State last year, if Penn State finds itself excluded from the Big Ten title game despite only having a single loss, then the Nittany Lions still have a 24% chance of making its way into the CFP.

While the current Playoff scenarios can seem infinite, they’re likely no match for what we’ll see play out over the next few months. So sit back, try to relax, and watch it all unfold.

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Matt is a co-owner and Editor in Chief of Basic Blues Nation. Launched in 2022, Basic Blues Nation is one of the fastest-growing websites covering all Penn State athletics, with over 3.5 million readers in 2023. Matt is also a credentialed member of the Penn State football beat, and is a member of the Football Writers Association of America.


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