Following Penn State's 30-27 loss to Michigan State, coach James Franklin was asked about not having a 100-yard rusher this year.
"The year's not over yet," he said.
True enough. The Nittany Lions, who lost five games by a combined total of 21 points, get one more chance at success during bowl season. After opting out of a bowl in 2020, Penn State returns to the postseason in one of the middle-tier Big Ten games.
So what is Penn State's bowl destination? Invitations will be made public Sunday, when the College Football Playoff pairings are determined. In the meantime, these are Penn State's most likely possibilities.
- When: Dec. 29, 2:15 p.m. EST
- Where: Yankee Stadium, New York
- Opponent: ACC
- TV: ESPN
Why New York? This is Penn State's most likely destination, repeating the theme of 2014, when the team became bowl-eligible after two years of sanctions. It's a nice regional game for a fan base that might not be interested in long-distance travel and still offers a unique opportunity (to see football at Yankee Stadium).
Why not New York? The Lions have been there before; Minnesota and Purdue, Penn State's prime competitors for bowl placement, have not.
Las Vegas Bowl
- When: Dec. 30, 10:30 p.m. EST
- Where: Allegiant Stadium, Las Vegas
- Opponent: Pac-12
- TV: ESPN
Why Las Vegas? Since the bowl's contract calls for three Big Ten teams in six years, this offers a rare alignment between bowl and program. Penn State gets few chances to play on the West Coast against Pac-12 opponents; the athletic department, Big Ten, bowl committee and network might like pairing Penn State and UCLA, for instance, in a bowl game.
Why not Las Vegas? Will Penn State fans from the East really invest in a trip to Las Vegas to see a 7-5 team? And did you see that start time? This game might be better suited for Minnesota.
Music City Bowl
- When: Dec. 30, 3 p.m. EST
- Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
- Opponent: SEC
- TV: ESPN
Why Nashville? Another first-time trip for Penn State to an entertaining destination might revive some fan interest in a bowl game. ESPN could deliver an interesting matchup as well between Penn State and perhaps Tennessee. And surely the host city would welcome back James Franklin, who cut his head-coaching teeth for three seasons at Vanderbilt.
Why not Nashville? If Tennessee is invited, the bowl's network and conference partners might be willing to bring in a Big Ten team with a better record (such as Purdue) that doesn't have a huge traveling fan base.
Jerry Palm, CBS Sports: Las Vegas Bowl (Penn State vs. Arizona State)
Stewart Mandel, The Athletic: Las Vegas Bowl (Penn Stave vs. UCLA)
Brett McMurphy, Action Network: Las Vegas Bowl (Penn State vs. UCLA)
Brad Crawford, 247Sports: Las Vegas Bowl (Penn State vs. Arizona State)