Brainstorming Penn State Playoff Matchups (2024)

I can’t wait for this college football season.

Well, I say that every year. But, this year in particular feels special. Thanks to the expansion to a 12-team playoff, eight additional teams will get a stab at national championship runs this season. Your first loss won’t necessarily derail your campaign, and more teams than ever will be fighting tooth-and-nail to improve their resumes.

Given Penn State’s postseason rankings in recent years, it feels reasonable to expect the Nittany Lions to go dancing in 2024. Anything can happen (hello, 2020), but I can’t help but dream of a flurry-filled Beaver Stadium hosting Penn State’s first-ever playoff game.

This got me thinking, what would be some dream matchups for Penn State should it find itself with an on-campus playoff game? Most fans would probably say “the worst team in the bracket,” but I want to look at this from more of an objective, college football fan lens. Especially with James Franklin’s seeming unwillingness to schedule tough out-of-conference opponents down the line, I wanted to brainstorm matchups I’ve been dying to see. Let me know who you'd like to see Penn State play in the playoff, too.

Tier 1: Reasonable Asks

Alabama @ Penn State

This would be an ideal matchup, and it’s not too unlikely. Both teams would need to finish around third in their respective conferences to set up a No. 8 vs. No. 9 matchup, as conjectured by CBS Sports.

This would easily be the best game of the season and probably go down as a classic. A blue-blood SEC team comes up north to a newly winterized Beaver Stadium and faces a sea of college kids who didn’t go home for Christmas and championship-hungry die-hard fans in the program’s first playoff game. There would be a bit of a revenge factor here, too, as Alabama took both games in the 2010-11 home-and-home series, including the most recent match at Beaver Stadium. Plus, Nittany Lion fans would get a kick out of seeing Penn State ranked above and hosting the Crimson Tide.

Notre Dame @ Penn State

Penn State and Notre Dame are deadlocked at 9-9-1 in their all-time series. What better time to re-spark the rivalry? Plus, it would be awesome to see two teams from cold-weather areas toughing it out deep into December. Rematch of the 1992 “Snow Bowl,” anybody?

Penn State @ LSU

I can’t just pick all home games here. Penn State and LSU are both in the pantheon of college football gameday environments, so this would be a beautiful clash of two passionate fanbases. The Nittany Lions and Tigers (and bears!) have only ever met twice, and I can’t think of a better spot for the third matchup. Plus, it would be extra sweet for Penn State to shut down the SEC vs. Big Ten atmosphere debates like it did at Jordan-Hare two years ago.

Penn State @ Tennessee

While this isn’t as realistic of a matchup as the other three, this would be another dream away game. Penn State and Tennessee fans match each other well in energy and vibe, and this would draw a lot of national attention and fan-fare. Blue-clad fans descending on Knoxville to try to shut down a checkered Neyland...cinema.

Tier 2: Fun Long Shots

Penn State @ Texas A&M

This game has the same vibe as Penn State @ Tennessee to me. Two incredibly passionate fanbases that are just absolutely fiending for their teams to win big games. Kyle Field’s atmosphere deserves to get amped up for a big game, and why can’t it happen for the Aggies against Penn State? Although 2024 might be a long shot, this would be a fun one to see down the line.

App State @ Penn State

While this might belong in the pipe dream category, all it would take is App State winning the Sun Belt and wrapping up enough games to be the fifth-highest-ranked conference champion. And Penn State would have to be No. 1...okay, maybe it’s a pipe dream. But, the Mountaineers have cracked the Top 25 in three of their last six seasons and are on an upward trajectory, losing the Sun Belt Championship in 2023.

I’d love for a matchup of the 2018 near-disaster at Beaver Stadium. App State has been a fun team to follow and root for, so it would be great to see their fans get a crack at the playoff. And I don’t think Penn State fans would be too upset about drawing the Mountaineers, either.

Tier 3: Total Pipe Dreams

Penn State @ Virginia Tech

This game getting canceled during the Covid season still haunts me. Give me Penn State vs. Enter Sandman in the playoff!

Pitt @ Penn State

This speaks for itself. Probably impossible, but boy would it be a fun one.

Penn State @ Temple

This is even more impossible than Pitt. But, could you imagine a College Football Playoff game involving Penn State at the Linc in the snow? McGillin’s might burn to the ground.

Brainstorming Penn State Playoff Matchups (2024)

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