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Peach Bowl CEO hopes Penn State makes its 1st postseason appearance in Atlanta

These are exciting and tense times for Gary Stokan and other chief executive officers of college football bowl games.

Stokan, the CEO of the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl, and the others will find out Sunday which two teams will be coming to their cities in late December and early January.

He compares it to the week leading up to Christmas.

“It’s exhilarating and exhausting,” Stokan said Monday. “We have no say-so, zero say-so, with being part of the College Football Playoff for the last 10 years. We literally sit there Sunday like everybody else waiting for ESPN to put the two teams up there under the Chick-Fil-A Peach Bowl.

“That’s our Christmas presents. You have to wait. That’s the exhaustive side of it. Yet it’s exhilarating as well.”

Stokan is a Pittsburgh-area native who has been in charge of the Peach Bowl for 26 years. The Atlanta-based game began in 1968 but has never had Penn State as one of its teams. He said he hopes that changes this year.

“We’d be overjoyed if we’d get Penn State,” Stokan said. “The Penn State brand is one of the best brands in college football. To be able to put 110,000 people in the seats on a weekly basis makes them one of the best fan bases in the country.

“(Coach) James Franklin is a first-class guy, a quality guy. I know James. He does a great job and is a quality person.”

The Peach Bowl, which is at noon Dec. 30 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, is one of the potential bowl destinations for the 10th-ranked Nittany Lions (10-2), who finished the regular season with a 42-0 victory over Michigan State last Friday.

Penn State is in position to receive a berth in a New Year’s Six bowl. If that happens, the options also would include the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 29 in Arlington, Texas, and the Fiesta Bowl on Jan 1 in Glendale, Ariz.

The Rose Bowl and the Sugar Bowl are hosting CFP semifinals on Jan. 1, so the Lions won’t be in either of those games.

The Orange Bowl on Dec. 30 pairs the Atlantic Coast Conference champion — or the highest-ranked ACC team available — against the highest-ranked team available from the Big Ten, the Southeastern Conference and Notre Dame. Penn State isn’t likely to land there with Ohio State, Alabama and Missouri ranked higher.

It appears that Louisville will represent the ACC in the Orange whether the Cardinals win or lose against unbeaten Florida State in Saturday’s ACC title game.

If the Seminoles win, they most likely will finish in the top four in the CFP rankings and will be in a semifinal and Louisville would be the best available ACC team for the Orange Bowl. If the Cards win, they automatically clinch an Orange Bowl berth and the Seminoles would wind up at another New Year’s Six bowl.

The loser of Friday’s Pac-12 title game between Washington and Oregon would get one of the remaining NY6 berths in the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta, along with perhaps Texas, Alabama, Missouri and the top-ranked team from the Group of Five conferences, which now would be Tulane.

That leaves one spot for Penn State, as long as the Lions are ranked 10th or higher in the final CFP rankings and as long as favorites Michigan and Texas win their respective conference title games this weekend.

If Iowa stuns the Wolverines, the Hawkeyes would clinch an automatic NY6 berth and displace Penn State. The same goes for Oklahoma State if it upsets Texas. If either one of them happens, the Lions most likely will be headed to the Jan. 1 Citrus Bowl against a SEC opponent.

“As a Penn State fan, you gotta hope and wish and pray that Iowa doesn’t upset Michigan,” Stokan said. “And you gotta hope Oklahoma State doesn’t beat Texas.”

It appears that the Fiesta Bowl will wind up with the Group of Five champion, whether it’s Tulane or another team. The Fiesta Bowl has had a Group of Five team just twice since the start of the CFP in 2014, the last one being UCF in the 2018 season.

The Peach Bowl and the Cotton Bowl have had three Group of Five teams apiece in years when they didn’t host a semifinal. This is the last year with such an arrangement before the CFP expands to 12 teams next year with pairings based strictly on seedings.

Penn State’s possible opponents in the Peach, Cotton or Fiesta would include Texas, Alabama, Missouri, Tulane or the Washington-Oregon loser.

“They have one of the best defenses in the country,” Stokan said. “Their offense has struggled a little bit, but they have a quality quarterback (Drew Allar) who has played in the toughest division in the country. Their only losses were to the No. 2 (Michigan) and No. 3 (Ohio State) teams in the country.

“We’ve never had Penn State in our history, so that’d be kind of cool.”

Source: Berkshire mont

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