Penn State's mixed bag

It was a good news-bad news Saturday for Penn State. First, the good news -- right? Well, the Lions and their fans got their wish and Oregon State fell to Oregon, 65-38, in tonight's Civil War. If Penn State winds up in the Rose Bowl -- and it sure looks that way -- it likely won't have to play Oregon State, a team it crushed, 45-14, in Week 2. The likely opponent is now Southern Cal. If the Trojans, 38-3 winners over Notre Dame, beat rival UCLA next Saturday, they head to Pasadena to take on the Lions -- unless, they somehow worm their way into the national championship game.

But that's about as likely to happen as Penn State's squirming into the BCS title game. More on that later. If the Trojans lose to the Bruins (highly unlikely), however, Oregon State would share a three-way tie for the conference title with the Trojans and Ducks, and the Beavers would have the tiebreaker for the Rose Bowl. That would be a cruel and unusual way for the Lions to have to face the Beavers again. (A quick question: How can you give up 65 (!) points to your inter-state rival??) The Lions want the Trojans, however, and it looks like they'll get a chance to knock off one of the big boys.

OK, now the bad news. It shouldn't come as much of a surprise, but Penn State is officially out of the national championship chase. With Florida and Alabama both winning convincingly today, the SEC has guaranteed itself a team in the championship. Those two teams face off next Saturday in the SEC championship with the winner assured a spot in Miami. The other finalist will likely come from the Big 12. With its 61-41 win (Do they play defense in the Big 12??) over Oklahoma State, Oklahoma looks like it will vault past Texas in tomorrow's BCS standings and thus represent the South Division in the Big 12 championship against Missouri. If the Sooners beat the Tigers, they'll face the Alabama-Florida winner. If Missouri wins, Texas or maybe even Southern Cal could slide into Oklahoma's space.

Penn State is ranked behind those two teams and even Utah and Texas Tech, so the Lions are out. If USC does manage to get to Miami, Penn State would still likely face an attractive opponent in the Rose Bowl. Perhaps Texas or the Alabama-Florida loser. Maybe Boise State (ugh). All that being written, it's looking like a Penn State-Southern Cal Rose Bowl. I'm guessing the Trojans open as 14-point favorites. Maybe even higher.