No. 7 Penn State suffered a terrible 20-18 loss to Illinois on Saturday. And it took an extra nine hours to get there.
With the loss, the Nittany Lions’ second in a row, they are no longer in contention for the championship of any kind. The defense was shattered on the ground when Illinois completely abandoned the passing game (8 of 21 completed passes for 38 yards and an interception). But running backs Chase Brown (33 carries, 223 yards, one touchdown) and Joshua McCray (24 carries, 142 yards) were largely unstoppable. Penn State entered as a favorite by 23.5 points.
Still, the defense did a good job of allowing just 10 points in regulation, including just one touchdown. But the Penn State offense could do nothing, adding 227 yards of offense for the entire game. Even the return of quarterback Sean Clifford (19 of 34 passes, 165 yards, one touchdown) couldn’t help the Nittany Lions win.
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How will Penn State’s loss affect those teams in the top 25? The top four teams, Georgia, Cincinnati, Oklahoma and Alabama, will not be affected. Neither Ohio State nor Michigan, although they will gain an advantage of another kind after the defeat of the Nittany Lions.
With that, Sporting News breaks down who can move up and down after the loss of Penn State.
Rankings reflect AP Top 25 / Coaches survey
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Ohio State (5-1)
Previous range: 5/5
The Buckeyes will absolutely benefit from Penn State’s loss, although it won’t show in recent polls, considering they were ahead of Penn State in both rankings. Instead, it gives them a two-game lead on the Big Ten East standings. The one-loss Buckeyes will need to get to the conference championship game undefeated with just one loss to Oregon if they want to make the playoffs again.
Even if Ohio State loses, however, it can still compete for the Big Ten championship. That was made easier with the loss of Penn State: The Buckeyes would have to lose three Big Ten games, or two, if one of them were to the Nittany Lions in Week 9, to fall behind in the conference standings. . That’s not going to happen.
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Previous range: 6/6
The Wolverines showed no slowness after the bye week in a 33-7 fight over Northwestern on Saturday. They guaranteed they wouldn’t fall on the field, considering the margin of victory over the Wildcats. The loss of Penn State will do nothing to affect that and, like rival Ohio State, it can only help Michigan in the Big Ten.
Oklahoma State (6-0)
Previous range: 8/9
The Cowboys are yet to finish their game against the Iowa State team, which is in the top 10 in preseason, but they are shaping up to be the highest-ranked team to enjoy a rise in ranking as a direct result of the loss of Penn State. They were one place behind them in both the AP Top 25 and the Coaches Poll.
Assuming the Cowboys win, and no other team against them loses on Saturday, Mike Gundy’s team will move up one spot after Week 8 of college football. He will also remain undefeated, preparing for a possible encounter in Bedlam at the end of the season.
Michigan State (7-0)
Previous range: 9/7
The Spartans have a much-needed break a week after surviving Indiana 20-15. The Spartans will get a free week hit on their division opponent, but it should only be one spot. Regardless, that sets up an undefeated rivalry game against Michigan at East Lansing.
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Previous range: 10/10
If Oregon beats UCLA on Saturday, it will move up one place as a result of its 6-1 record. Yet another loss would put them lower in the rankings, behind Penn State, outside of the top 15 and completely out of Playoff contention. That would also eliminate the entire Pac-12 team from the national championship contention, considering the Ducks are the last team to lose in the conference.
Previous range: 11/11
Iowa is out in Week 8, a precarious position when the teams in front of you go down. That said, the Hawkeyes’ head-to-head victory over the Nittany Lions ensures that the Nittany Lions fall behind the Hawkeyes in the latest rankings, ensuring that Iowa will play in Week 9 as a top-10 team.
Despite its frustrating loss to Purdue in Week 7, Iowa still maintains full control not only in the Big Ten West, but in the Playoffs as well. The Hawkeyes just need to win for the rest of the season.
Penn State (5-2)
Previous range: 7/8
The Nittany Lions season is over, as far as championship aspirations go. They just need too much help in the Big Ten to represent the East division in Indianapolis, and they need even more help with several undefeated teams and one loss remaining.
As for the last set of rankings, Penn State should fall well outside of the top 10, and possibly outside of the top 15. That will certainly be the case if Ole Miss, Notre Dame, Wake Forest, Texas A&M and NC State all teams. with one loss or less: win on Saturday. That would see the Nittany Lions drop to 18, potentially just above Auburn, over whom Penn State has a direct win.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.