Regardless of the circumstances surrounding Penn State and their game against Nebraska, there was a game that had to be played. The ramifications after Nebraska's 17-14 victory over the Nittany Lions may not be the biggest story in State College, but they do greatly impact both teams' standings within the Big Ten.
First to Penn State. With the loss to Nebraska, Penn State suffered their first setback in Big Ten play, but in the immediate future, this does not affect Penn State's leadership of the Leaders Division. However, they did make things complicated.
Wisconsin is lurking one game back of Penn State and the two are slated for a regular-season finale in Madison in two weeks. With all the chaos surrounding Penn State's football program at this moment, games at Ohio State and Wisconsin suddenly look much more difficult.
Wisconsin does travel to Illinois next week, a team with a history of upsets, but I do not see Wisconsin passing up an opportunity to control their own destiny and get their rematch with Michigan State in the Big Ten Championship game.
Penn State simply needs to win out to earn a birth in the Big Ten championship game, but this loss to Nebraska in their home finale was their best chance to move on from this situation with momentum. However, they will have to get the wheels rolling by either defeating Ohio State or Wisconsin on the road, a challenge for any team.
On the other side of things, Nebraska does not entirely control their own destiny. They are tied with Michigan for second place in the Legends Division with two loses, a game behind Michigan State. Unlike the Wolverines, the Cornhuskers have the head-to-head win against Michigan State, so they need only to tie Sparty in order to earn a championship game birth.
However, Nebraska has to defeat Michigan and their tough run defense in the Big House, a task Nebraska may not be up to. Furthermore, they need either Indiana or Northwestern to upset Michigan State, something that the Huskers know very well could happen but is probably not likely.
It is in fact last week's Northwestern upset that is keeping the Huskers from controlling their own fate within the Big Ten, and has a result, Nebraska is on the outside looking in at the Big Ten championship game picture.
Overall, this game was anything but pretty and every bit as emotional as expected. Penn State's loss does not doom the chance at a championship season, but they must fend off fierce rivals to do so while Nebraska hopes for an upset. Both teams are stuck in the drama of the Big Ten championship race, which is only sure to be even more chaotic next week.
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