CFB Writer: Penn State Isn’t Quite Ready

After a crazy college football weekend in which three of the top four teams in the country lost, CBSSports.com college football writer Jerry Palm dropped by CBS Sports Radio to discuss the College Football Playoff race. As of now, he thinks the top four teams in the country are Alabama (10-0), Ohio State (9-1), Clemson (9-1) and Louisville (9-1).

Washington (9-1), which lost at home, 26-13, to USC on Saturday night, is no longer in that discussion – at least not right now.

“Well, I think the problem with Washington in the eye of the committee wasn’t that the league was weak; it was that their schedule hadn’t been up to snuff in comparison to the other teams at the top of the rankings,” Palm said on Tiki and Tierney, referring to the Huskies’ initial No. 5 ranking. “That’s why they were being dragged back. That could be a function of the fact that the league isn’t as good. To that point, they played Stanford and Oregon and beat them. Normally beating them would be cause for celebration. This year, it’s just a yawn. They won at Utah, and that’s a pretty good team, but the league is down. Washington was the only team that was really distinguishing themselves. USC has been playing a lot better, and I think they showed that up there in Washington this weekend, and I think that that win for USC was as much about them as it was about Washington. But the strength of that league – or the lack of strength in that league – is holding Washington down to some degree. But it could be worse. It could be the Big 12, which is a train wreck, really.”

While the Big Ten is the conference most likely to get two teams into the playoff, Michigan’s loss at Iowa could definitely shake things up in the final weeks. For example, if Penn State (8-2) wins at Rutgers (2-8) and against Michigan State (3-7) – and if Ohio State beats Michigan – the Nittany Lions would play in the Big Ten Championship. And if they were to win that, they would almost have to be in the playoff, no?

“First of all, I think it’s overstating it to say (the committee puts) strong significance on conference championships,” Palm said. “It is a factor. It can be a factor, but I think it’s more of a tiebreaker type of factor, and that’s how they’ve described it themselves. So it’ll be interesting to see how much they value conference championships in that situation should it occur. I think it’s much more interesting if Penn State wins as opposed to say Wisconsin winning the Big Ten. I think it’s easier to take Ohio State ahead of Wisconsin if Wisconsin ends up being the Big Ten champion: 11-1 Ohio State versus 11-2 Wisconsin. But it will be interesting to see, and yes, it is possible. I think Washington would probably have to lose again to open the door for both Penn State and Ohio State to make the playoffs.”

Whatever happens, is Penn State ready to play the likes of Alabama? Or any other truly elite team, especially away from home?

“I think they’re not quite (ready),” Palm said. “What I would like to see Penn State do is beat a really good team away from home. They beat Ohio State at home, they beat Iowa at home. All their best stuff this year has been at home. Actually, that was my complaint about Michigan too, but Michigan hasn’t beaten a team as good as Ohio State and Penn State has. Now the first time Michigan plays a team with a pulse away from home, they get beat. So for Penn State, for me, I kind of want to see it happen away from home. The problem is it can’t really happen until they get to a Big Ten Championship game, if that’s what happens.”

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