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Penn State Football: 10 Games That Impacted the Nittany Lions

Kevin McGuireAnalyst IINovember 6, 2011

Penn State Football: 10 Games That Impacted the Nittany Lions

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    Penn State had a bye week, so it gave fans a chance to scope out some of the other games going on around the nation.

    While there were a couple of scares in the Leaders Division, the favorites found a way to pull away for wins in Big Ten play, while the Legends Division saw an interesting turn of events.

    And what about some of the other games going on around the nation? How do all of these games impact Penn State and the standings?

    Let's take a quick look.

No. 1: Wisconsin Sends a Message

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    The Wisconsin Badgers entered the season as the Big Ten favorite, but they were left hanging their heads each of the past two weeks on the road.

    Losses to Michigan State and Ohio State placed Wisconsin in a tough spot in the Leaders Division, but if Saturday's blowout of Purdue (via UWBadgers.com), was any indication, they have plenty of fight left in them.

    Penn State plays at Wisconsin in the final week of the regular season. Penn State needs to win two of their next three games to clinch a spot in the Big Ten championship game. If that Wisconsin game is needed, it could be pretty tough.

No. 2: Ohio State Pulls Away from Hoosiers

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    Does Ohio State have their swagger back? Perhaps, but they struggled against Indiana for a long time before finding a way to pull away with a 34-20 win in Columbus.

    Ohio State is still two games behind Penn State in the loss column in the Leaders Division game. But, did we see that the Buckeyes defense has some cracks in it that can be exposed?

    We'll see. Indiana threw up 19 first downs from an offense that struggles in many ways.

    The Buckeyes were resilient, though, and responded well in the clutch. Penn State plays in Columbus in two weeks, and they have only won there once since joining the Big Ten in 1993.

No. 3: Nebraska Looks Vulnerable

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    At the beginning of the week, many were saying Nebraska was playing the best football in the Big Ten. Northwestern didn't get the memo.

    The Wildcats upset the Cornhuskers in Lincoln by hanging on for a 28-25 victory. Nebraska's running game was limited to 118 yards on the ground against a defense that struggles against the run.

    Nebraska will come to Penn State next weekend looking for solutions for some of their problems against Northwestern.

    They may want to take note that Penn State's defense is playing on a different level than Northwestern.

    The Nebraska loss actually takes some of the magic out of next week's matchup. Nebraska will fall out of the Top 10, and could drop significantly with the loss to a Northwestern team that won just their fourth game of the season.

No. 4: Kansas State out of the Way

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    We'll have to wait and see how everything plays out, but Kansas State is now officially out of Penn State's way in the BCS picture.

    Penn State probably won't make the BCS as an at-large with two losses anyway, but knowing that Kansas State has lost two straight games should eliminate one possible obstacle if Penn State is in the conversation for an at-large berth.

No. 5: Boise State Still Stands

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    Boise State's mission to snatch a BCS at-large remains strong after a win this weekend against UNLV.

    As long as Boise State stays in the picture, it is bad news for the Big Ten, who is beginning to look more and more like a one-bud conference in the BCS this season.

    That would likely mean that Penn State's only BCS chances hinge on the Big Ten championship.

No. 6: Michiagn Stumbles, Iowa Still in the Hunt

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    Just a couple days ago we talked about how it would be good for Penn State to meet Michigan in the Big Ten championship game with identical 11-1 records.

    A Big Ten championship game between Michigan and Penn State would have been a matchup of some big names in college football, but after this weekend that looks to be a little less likely.

    Michigan dropping a game to Iowa puts the Wolverines in a tough spot, with games against Nebraska and Ohio State remaining.

    They need to make up a game in the loss column behind Michigan State. Now, the Spartans are in the lead in the Legends Division, and that would eliminate the national draw for the Big Ten title game, according to the national pundits.

    Of course, there is still plenty of football to play and Penn State still has to take care of their own business.

No. 7: Alabama Is Still Pretty Darn Good

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    Sure, Alabama showed some weaknesses and came up small against LSU on their home field Saturday night, but it was clear that their defense is especially tough.

    Penn State managed to score a few more points than LSU back in September, but there is no real reason to compare the two games side by side.

    For Penn State it would have been better if Alabama had won and stayed undefeated, but the Crimson Tide are still highly ranked in the polls—whatever that means for Penn State's strength of schedule factor.

No. 8: Temple and Other Past Opponents Lose

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    Temple lost. Alabama lost. Eastern Michigan lost. Even Indiana State lost.

    All of Penn State's non-conference opponents took a hit this week in college football, which is good news for those who believe Penn State's lack of a strength of schedule is worth noting.

    Two previous opponents this season in Big Ten play (Northwestern and Iowa) picked up big wins against higher ranked teams. Two of Penn State's future opponents (Ohio State and Wisconsin) pulled away for key wins in Leaders Division play, but Nebraska's loss took some of the air out for the hype for next week's matchup with the Huskers.

No. 9: Houston, Do We Have a Problem?

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    While Boise State is gaining all of the attention as a possible BCS buster, again, the Houston Cougars are creeping up the rankings with the help of others losing and a potent offense.

    This weekend, Houston blasted East Carolina on the road and they sit just one spot in front of the Nittany Lions in the AP and coaches polls, ranked 11th in each. (Penn State is 12th in each.)

    One loss is all that will be needed to get Houston out of the way. If Penn State continues to win they will eventually pass an undefeated Houston team in all likelihood.

No. 10: Pittsburgh at Risk of Bowl Ineligibility

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    While it has no direct impact on Penn State, fans in Pennsylvania always seem to keep an eye on things going on in the western part of the state.

    Pittsburgh lost to Cincinnati this weekend in Big East play as the Bearcats remained unbeaten in the Big East. While Cincinnati is starting to think about the BCS, the Panthers are struggling to reach the postseason.

    The loss for Pittsburgh dropped Penn State's former rival to 4-6 this season, meaning that if the Panthers lose just one more game this season they will be staying home this bowl season. Pittsburgh has three games remaining, with two road games at Louisville and West Virginia and a home game against Syracuse.

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