Penn State lost its last game and didn’t play this past weekend. But when the Nittany Lions get back on the field on Saturday, they will be ranked higher in the polls than they were before falling to Ohio State.
Thanks to some high-profile losses ahead of them this week, the Lions moved up to No. 8 in both the AP and coaches polls, which were released Sunday. And they were nearly placed at No. 7 in the AP ballot, just one point behind Washington.
Penn State had been at No. 9 heading into the showdown with the Buckeyes and then was unable to close out a 12-point fourth-quarter lead, losing 27-26. That narrow loss, however, only dropped the Lions to No. 11 in last week’s polls heading into their bye week.
Losses by LSU, Oklahoma and Auburn moved them up three spots heading into Saturday’s homecoming game against Michigan State, which will kick off at 3:30 p.m. on Big Ten Network.
It was set to be a second straight matchup against a ranked team, but the Spartans plummeted out of the polls after a surprising 29-19 loss to a Northwestern team that hadn’t won since August.
Michigan State (3-2) opened the season looking to challenge again for the Big Ten East title after finishing second in the division a year ago. But after a narrow opening win over Utah State — a game in which the Spartans trailed in the fourth quarter — they lost on the road to Arizona State before beating Indiana and Central Michigan.
Not that the Lions will be taking the Spartans lightly.
Last year Penn State also suffered a one-point loss to Ohio State and followed it up with a three-point loss to Michigan State on a last-second field goal that knocked the Lions out of College Football Playoff contention.
Penn State will need to run the table against their final seven opponents to remain alive for the top four this season. Two of those seven are ranked this week with Michigan at No. 12 and Wisconsin at No. 15. Iowa is just one spot out of the top 25.
The top four in the AP poll remained unchanged with Alabama, Georgia, Ohio State and Clemson leading the pack. Notre Dame moved up to No. 5 after beating Virginia Tech.