Penn State stays put in College Football Playoff rankings

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Penn State stays put in College Football Playoff rankings

Penn State's College Football Playoff chances remained the same Tuesday night.

The Nittany Lions are still a long shot.

James Franklin's team stayed put at No. 10 in the latest College Football Playoff rankings despite beating Nebraska last Saturday, 56-44, in its home finale.

The Nittany Lions close out the regular season this Saturday at Maryland.

Penn State (9-2, 6-2 Big Ten) missed out on the Dec. 2 Big Ten title game after losing back-to-back contests to Ohio State and Michigan State. The Nittany Lions have since won two straight and seem destined for a New Year's Six bowl with the College Football Playoff almost entirely out of reach.

Speaking of such, Miami made a small but potentially significant move up to No. 2 behind Alabama in the CFP rankings, with Clemson slipping one spot to three and Oklahoma holding at four.

Wisconsin and Auburn remained next up behind the top four in a week when the top half of the selection committee's rankings were mostly unchanged.

Georgia, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State and Southern California followed in the same order as they did last week. Over the next two weeks, every team in the top nine will play another team ranked in the committee's top 25, including four games matching top playoff contenders.

The Crimson Tide will play at Auburn on Saturday to decide a spot in the Southeastern Conference championship on Dec. 2. The winner plays Georgia.

The Atlantic Coast Conference championship will match Clemson and Miami on Dec. 2, and Wisconsin and Ohio State play in the Big Ten championship.

Miami's move comes after rallying to beat Virginia last Saturday. Committee chairman Kirby Hocutt said Miami is showing characteristics of a championship team.

"When you get down the way Miami did to Virginia two times, once in each half, and you have the poise and the ability to come back and win in a convincing manner, that is special," said Hocutt, the Texas Tech athletic director.

The Hurricanes (10-0) play at Pitt Friday and now seem better positioned to get into the playoff even with a loss to Clemson, depending on how things play out in other conferences.

Central Florida came in at No. 15 and Memphis is 20th, the highest ranked teams from outside the Power Five. The American Athletic Conference rivals could meet in the league title game in two weeks if UCF beats USF on Black Friday, setting up a game that would likely send the winner into a New Year's Six bowl.

How does this play out?
On championship Saturday, the selection committee gathers at the Dallas-area resort hotel where it holds its weekly meeting to watch games together. When the games are done, Hocutt and his crew of 12 experts dig into the results and put together their final, and only truly meaningful, top 25.

Will it be a late night at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine or will the committee members be able to uncork a bottle of wine during the second half of the ACC title game? A lot depends on Alabama.

The Crimson Tide could essentially eliminate two other playoff contenders in Auburn and Georgia. The Tigers have no shot if they don't win the Iron Bowl and the SEC title. Georgia at 11-2 with a loss in the conference title game could still have a flicker of hope to be the second SEC team in the playoff, but would need a lot of help.

At 13-0, the Crimson Tide would be seeded No. 1 and heading to New Orleans to play in the Sugar Bowl semifinal. Easy.

If Alabama loses the Iron Bowl or wins that and loses the SEC championship game, it means the committee will likely be ordering up a couple extra pots of coffee instead of a nice pinot noir.

The SEC champion is pretty much a lock to get in. But what to do with Alabama at 11-1 or 12-1? The Crimson Tide has been the most dominant team all season, rarely challenged on the field. Nick Saban's Tide, loaded with five-star recruits and future high draft picks, will always pass the eye test. Alabama's best wins now are against LSU and Mississippi State, both 8-3.

Alabama is the only team to make the playoff all three seasons. Is the committee prepared to leave the Tide out?

The next team that can help clear things up for the committee is Wisconsin.

The committee is not thrilled with the Badgers' schedule, but Wisconsin can get a marquee victory in the Big Ten title game — as long as Ohio State takes care of Michigan on Saturday. At 13-0 and with a conference championship, the committee can replace the ACC championship loser with Wisconsin in the top four.

Wisconsin can also eliminate Ohio State and its 31-point loss to Iowa. A Wisconsin loss to Ohio State — or Oklahoma losing to TCU in the Big 12 title game — opens to the door to consideration of two-loss teams that could bring Notre Dame and USC back into the discussion.

The committee could be weighing two-loss conference champions against one-loss teams with no titles. Last year Ohio State was the latter and got in on the strength of three victories against top-10 teams. No contender can match that without winning its conference this season, which could make the decision much tougher this time.

This one truly hurts for Penn State

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This one truly hurts for Penn State

BOX SCORE

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- John Beilein has always coveted the type of player with near-limitless energy reserve who can provide a scoring spark off the bench.

Michigan's coach has found his man this year.

Duncan Robinson supported No. 17 Michigan's starters with 19 points and helped the Wolverines beat Penn State 72-63 on Wednesday night.

"I've loved always having this, whether I was at Richmond, West Virginia, Canisius, the guy that can come off the bench with no conscience," Beilein said. "It's very hard to sit there for 10 minutes and then just go in and shoot. And he can do that."

Moritz Wagner added 18 and Jordan Poole had 13 for the Wolverines (23-7, 12-5 Big Ten) who won their fourth straight.

It got easier for the Wolverines just four minutes in when star Penn State forward Mike Watkins crumpled under Penn State's basket with an apparent right leg injury.

"That certainly was a factor in the game as well," Beilein said.

Tony Carr scored 21 points and Lamar Stevens added 19 for the Nittany Lions (19-11, 9-8) who trailed for all but about four minutes.

Michigan took control with a 25-12 run midway through the first and Robinson made Michigan's fifth of 10 3-pointers to put the Wolverines up by 13, their biggest lead of the game, with 3:52 left in the opening half. Back-to-back jumpers from Stevens cut Michigan's halftime lead to 34-26.

The Nittany Lions opened the second with a 13-4 run and took a 39-38 lead when Carr rolled a floater off his fingertips, drew a foul and made the free throw with 16:12 left.

"At halftime, we knew we didn't play well," Penn State coach Patrick Chambers said. "We were dealing with some adversity and I thought our guys competed and played hard, to come out and take the lead."

But the Wolverines went ahead for good on Muhammad-Ali Abdur-Rahkman's 3-pointer with 10:19 left. Michigan players combined to go 9-for-10 from the free throw line in the final minute to close out the game.

Watkins hurt
Watkins appeared to be in a good amount of discomfort as he was helped off the court.

Afterward, the forward spent a few minutes on a courtside exercise bike before returning to the bench with 9:28 to play. He lobbied Chambers to let him re-enter the game, but was clearly hobbled before Chambers pulled him out for good moments later.

Visibly upset, Watkins covered his face with a towel then entered the locker room before the half ended.

Chambers said he didn't have an update on Watkins other than the team would wait for test results on his right leg to come back later this week.

It was the second straight game -- and second straight loss -- where Watkins' presence was sorely missed. He found himself in early foul trouble against Purdue and played just nine minutes in Penn State's 76-73 loss.

"It's tough. They're a team that shoots a bunch of 3s. We weren't surprised that they shot the ball well."

Defending the 3
The Wolverines entered the game having made 264 3-pointers, good for second in the conference. They dropped 10 more on the Nittany Lions including a pair of back-to-back shots from Wagner that broke up Penn State's early second-half run.

They were big considering Beilein felt like his squad was squandering most of its chances early in the second.

"They just happened," Beilein said. "He got open, luckily, and he made them both and all of a sudden it's a 1-point game and we're still playing."

Robinson was 3-for-6 and hit the final 3-pointer to give the Wolverines' a 9-point lead with 1:28 left. Wagner was 4-for-5 from 3-point range while Poole added a pair.

"When you give up 10 3s to Michigan, It's going to be a tough outing for sure," Chambers said.

The big picture
Michigan: The Wolverines are guaranteed to be seeded no worse than fifth in the Big Ten tournament with the win. They'll have a chance to improve that as the teams above them in the standings No. 9 Purdue and Nebraska still have games remaining.

Penn State: With a 3-point loss to Purdue in their last game, the Nittany Lions badly needed this one for their NCAA tournament resume. Watkins will be nearly impossible for Penn State to replace if it has to move on without him. The 6-foot-9 forward is third in the country shooting 69.2 percent from the field. He has 13 double-doubles on the season and leads the team with 68 blocks and 258 rebounds. The players who would likely replace his minutes --Julian Moore and Satchel Pierce -- have averaged just 10 and eight minutes per game respectively.

Up next
Michigan visits Maryland on Saturday.

Penn State travels to Nebraska on Sunday.

Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

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Penn State can't keep streak alive against No. 6 Purdue

BOX SCORE 

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Carsen Edwards scored 27 points to lead sixth-ranked Purdue to a 76-73 victory over Penn State on Sunday night.

Dakota Mathias added 18 points and Isaac Haas had 12 points and six rebounds for the Boilermakers (24-5, 13-3 Big Ten), who snapped a season-worst three-game skid.

Tony Carr had 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, Shep Garner had 17 points and Lamar Stevens had 13 points and six rebounds for the Nittany Lions (19-10, 9-7). The loss ended a stretch of six wins in seven games.

Ryan Cline's 3-pointer with 5:31 remaining gave Purdue a 61-58 lead, and the Boilers never trailed the rest of the way.

It wasn't easy for a Purdue team in search of the same offensive flair that made the Boilermakers unbeatable during a program-record 19-game winning streak that stretched from November until a 64-63 loss to Ohio State on Feb. 7. It became more difficult without starting forward Vincent Edwards, one of the team's most consistent players.

Vincent Edwards sat on the bench wearing a walking boot after spraining his left ankle in practice on Saturday. The team disclosed the injury in a statement before tipoff.

It was another uncharacteristic game for the Boilermakers. They trailed by as much nine points in the first half, during which they shot 42.3 percent from the field and went 2 for 9 from 3-point range.

Penn State led 36-32 at halftime.

Big picture 
Penn State: Despite another poor offensive night by Purdue, the Nittany Lions proved their recent hot streak, which included a 79-56 blowout of No. 8 Ohio State, may not have been a fluke. Even after the Boilermakers found a groove in the second half, Penn State still never trailed by more than 11 points.

Purdue: After dropping three straight conference games and falling in the Big Ten standings, the Boilermakers needed to get back on track quickly with just two regular season games remaining.

Up next 
Penn State: The Nittany Lions host Michigan on Wednesday.

Purdue: The Boilermakers are at Illinois on Thursday.