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Penn State's Restored Road to the Rose Bowl

Here's how the Lions can head to Pasadena despite their mid-season slide.

Penn State became bowl-eligible Saturday with a 31-14 victory at Maryland, and the Big Ten's jumbled standings open plenty of bowl possibilities.

Even this one: Could Penn State (6-3) play in the Rose Bowl on Jan. 1? It's certainly possible, though the sequence of events required runs a pretty aggressive course.

But on the same day that Penn State ended its three-game losing streak, Michigan State and Minnesota also lost, bringing more murk to the Big Ten standings. The Lions once again have a path to a New Year's Six bowl game, even the Rose Bowl, despite being absent from the first College Football Playoff rankings.

How does Penn State get to the Rose Bowl? Here's a look.

First and foremost, win out: Two of Penn State's final three games are against Michigan (Saturday at Beaver Stadium) and at Michigan State (on Nov. 25). Both were top-10 teams in the first CFP rankings, though Michigan State will fall from No. 3 after losing to Purdue.

If Penn State finishes the season at 9-3, with wins over four ranked teams at the time they played (Wisconsin, Auburn, Michigan, Michigan State), it will compile a resume the CFP has to consider. Penn State won't be a top-10 team, but it might not have to be in order to make an NY6 game.

Ohio State goes 12-1 and to the playoff: The Buckeyes also have games remaining against Michigan State (Nov. 20) and Michigan (Nov. 27). By winning out and claiming the Big Ten title, Ohio State is assured a spot in the College Football Playoff. That frees the Rose Bowl for the next highest-ranked Big Ten team.

In addition, Ohio State would assure that Michigan and Michigan State finish the regular season with at least three losses, just like Penn State. In that case, Penn State likely holds the edge over the Michigan teams in the final CFP rankings.

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First things first, though: Ohio State must get past upset-minded Purdue this week.

Chaos continues to reign in the Big Ten West chaos: Each Big Ten West team has lost at least two conference games, with Minnesota, Purdue, Wisconsin and Iowa currently tied at 4-2 in the division. Who emerges from that is anyone's guess: Minnesota still faces Iowa and Wisconsin; the Badgers host Northwestern and Nebraska before visiting Minnesota; and Iowa closes with Illinois and Nebraska.

Best-case scenario is that Iowa loses at least once and Wisconsin wins out before falling to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. That might give Penn State a resume-builder over the Badgers. Yes, Penn State fell to Illinois in nine overtimes, while Wisconsin beat the Illini 24-0, but head-to-head matters. Right?

Iowa is a thorn here. The Hawkeyes (7-2) could lose to Minnesota and finish the regular season at 9-3, same as Penn State. What happens then? Head-to-head has to matter in that case as well.

Have whiplash yet? Don't worry; things surely will change next week. Bowl matchups will be announced Dec. 5.

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