So here we are, in the middle of November, and Penn State fans are once again trying to figure out possible bowl destinations for their Nittany Lions.
This is possible because earlier this season, the NCAA rescinded its postseason ban against Penn State. And because the Nittany Lions -- despite being crippled by severe scholarship limitations -- have managed to fight their way to the requisite six victories needed to qualify for a bowl.
With two games remaining (at struggling Illinois and then vs. powerful Michigan State), first-year coach James Franklin's team has a chance to further improve its bowl resume.
Check out our breakdown of the Big Ten affiliated bowls and our take on Penn State's chances of landing in each. Also, keep in mind that this year (and moving forward), there is no pecking order, per se, but rather the Big Ten has the discretion to assign conference teams to particular non-playoff bowls.
Further, most of the B1G-affiliated bowls now have provisions ensuring a variety of conference teams will appear in their games. For example, the Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Capital One), Outback, Holiday and Foster Farms require the B1G to send at least five different teams to their bowls over the six-year span of the respective contracts.
You can see all of the Big Ten bowl rules in the link at the bottom of this story.
Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl
DETAILS: Big Ten vs. C-USA, Dallas, Texas, Cotton Bowl Stadium 12/26, 1 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: Poor. The Nittany Lions were just in this game following the 2011 season, and fans were not exactly bowled over by the experience. We doubt the Big Ten will send PSU back to Dallas so soon. CBS Sportsline's Jerry Palm has Rutgers landing here, which sounds about right.
Quick Lane Bowl
DETAILS: Big Ten vs. ACC, Detroit, Mich., Ford Field, 12/26, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: We don't see Penn State falling this far. And from the bowl's perspective, we're sure it would prefer a Big Ten program within reasonable driving distance. The folks in Detroit have to be praying Michigan gets the one more victory it needs to become bowl eligible (the Wolverines close with Maryland at home this week and then at Ohio State the following week). Note that there is no limit on how often a Big Ten team can appear in this bowl.
New Era Pinstripe Bowl
DETAILS: ACC/Notre Dame vs. Big Ten, Bronx, N.Y., Yankee Stadium, 12/27, 4:30 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: This is the strong leader as we speak. A lot of Penn State fans spent a lot of money traveling to Dublin for the season-opener vs. UCF, not realizing a bowl would be in play this year. Though the weather figures to be rough, one has to imagine Nittany Lion backers would pack Yankee Stadium for a matchup with an ACC foe (too bad the odds of Pitt finishing at .500 are so remote). Further, this would be a case of the Big Ten throwing the Yankees a huge bone in the first year of the conference's relationship with the Pinstripe, with the possibility of breaking the facilities' all-time attendance record for a sporting event (54,000-plus). Finally, this is an eight-year contract between the B1G and the Yankees, and it requires the conference to send six different teams to the Bronx. Since the Lions appear to be on the upswing, it seems to make a lot of sense to slot them in this game before they move on to bigger and better (and warmer) destinations.
National University Holiday Bowl
DETAILS: Big Ten vs. Pac-12, San Diego, Calif., Qualcomm Stadium, 12/27, 8 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: There is an outside shot here, but it will require the Lions to win at least one more game and for some things to break the right way above them in the Big Ten. Palm has Nebraska landing here, which, as you will see below, is a perfectly reasonable prediction.
Franklin American Music City Bowl
DETAILS: ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC, Nashville, Tenn., LP Field, 12/30, 3 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: As fun as this might be, with James Franklin and his staff heading back to Nashville, we don't see any Big Ten team playing in the Music City Bowl this year. The Music City Bowl and TaxSlayer Bowl have a six-year agreement where one takes an ACC team and one a Big Ten team each year, and all signs point to a Big Ten team heading to Jacksonville.
Foster Farms Bowl
Formerly Fight Hunger
DETAILS: Big Ten vs. Pac-12, Santa Clara, Calif., Levi's Stadium 12/30 10 p.m. ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: This is the possible destination that is making editors of the Pennsylvania daily newspapers -- with their early deadlines -- cringe. But we're slotting it as the second-most likely destination for the Lions, especially if they win one more game. Other possible B1G representatives here include middle-of-the-packers like Minnesota, Iowa and Maryland, and it would obviously be a shorter trip for the first two. Hawkeye fans travel well for bowl games, and they haven't been to California since the 1991 Holiday Bowl (a tie with BYU). But Iowa sits at 7-3 right now, and will be an underdog in its final two games (Wisconsin and Nebraska, both at home). Likewise, Minnesota sports the same record and finishes with the same opponents, but both on the road. Given the advantage Penn State has when it comes to generating television ratings, it will be interesting to see what happens here if the Nittany Lions, Hawkeyes and Gophers all finish the regular season at 7-5.
Capital One Orange Bowl
DETAILS: ACC Champ/At Large vs. Big Ten/SEC/ND, Miami, Fla., 12/31 8 p.m. ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: Zero. So many good teams will be available for this bowl that even with two more wins, the Lions won't climb this high.
DETAILS: Big Ten vs. SEC, Tampa, Fla., Raymond James Stadium 1/1 Noon ESPN2
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: It will take two wins, but there is a rub there. One of the wins would be over Michigan State, and that would likely knock the Spartans out of contention for an at-large bid to a major bowl (Orange/Fiesta) and down into the Outback/Buffalo Wild Wings (formerly Capital One) mix. That would cause a domino effect below the Spartans. So the chances of PSU heading to Tampa are remote.
Buffalo Wild Wings Citrus Bowl
Formerly Capital One
Formerly Capital One
DETAILS: ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC, Orlando, Fla., Florida Citrus Bowl 1/1 1 p.m. ABC
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: We thought this would be next to impossible until we saw Palm's prediction of Maryland vs. Auburn here. After some thought, we think it will be next to impossible for the Terps or the Lions to climb this high. Michigan State, Nebraska and Wisconsin could all be in the mix here (note that the Badgers played in Orlando last year). An unlikely Ohio State collapse could put it in play here, as well. So too could an OSU loss to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game, in which case the Buckeyes would likely swap places with Wisky in the Big Ten bowl hierarchy. Regardless -- you get the point -- there are just too many pretty good teams near the top of the conference for middle-of-the-packers like PSU or Maryland to get this high.
DETAILS: ACC/Big Ten vs. SEC, Jacksonville, Fla., EverBank Field, 1/2 3:20 p.m., ESPN
PENN STATE'S CHANCES: If PSU wins its final two games, this could happen. As noted above, that would likely eliminate MSU from major bowl contention, and push it down into the Buffalo Wild Wings/Outback discussion. Since Wisconsin was in Orlando last year, that would likely mean MSU to the BWW and Wisconsin (provided it does not win the B1G title game) to the Outback, pushing Nebraska here. But the Cornhuskers just played in Jacksonville last season, so a return trip would be doubtful. Would any of the remaining B1G candidates look as attractive as an 8-4 Nittany Lion team riding a four-game winning streak?