Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel has released his final bowl projections ahead of Sunday night's selections, and the outlook isn't good for Penn State.
Despite their 9-3 record and wins against 7-5 Iowa, 6-6 Ohio State and 6-6 Northwestern, Mandel expects the Nittany Lions to fall all the way down to the No. 7 selection among Big Ten teams and play Houston in the TicketCity bowl on Jan. 2 in Dallas.
Of course, that's a matchup that wouldn't be all bad, as the Cougars boast Heisman Trophy contending quarterback Case Keenum, a 12-1 record and gaudy No. 6 ranking in the BCS ahead of the final poll. If not for a loss in the Conference USA championship game on Saturday, Houston would likely be heading the a BCS bowl game.
That said, the specter of being picked over by more prestigious bowl games and selected behind a trio of teams they beat convincingly will be a hard pill to swallow for the Lions. In Mandel's mind, however, the dark cloud of the Jerry Sandusky child sex abuse scandal looms large, and could cost Penn State big time.
Madel also projects West Virginia will play Clemson in the Orange Bowl and that Pitt will face Toledo in the BBVA Compass Bowl.