NEW YORK (AP) -Stuff like this has happened to JoePa before.
Four times in Joe Paterno's 43-year career, the iconic Penn State coach has led his team to an unbeaten season - only to have voters leave the Nittany Lions without a national championship.
Now Penn State is unbeaten, and No. 3.
Trailing Alabama and Texas Tech in the rankings, the pieces are in place for JoePa's team to be Au-burned by the Bowl Championship Series.
In 2004, Auburn became the only team from one of the six BCS conferences to go undefeated and not play for the national title. Southern California and Oklahoma also went unbeaten that year and wound up in the championship game, where the Trojans won in a rout.
If Alabama, Texas Tech and Penn State stay perfect the rest of this year, signs point toward the Red Raiders and Crimson Tide meeting in the BCS national title game on Jan. 8 in Miami. The Nittany Lions would be heading for the Rose Bowl - which is nice, too. Just not quite what they had in mind.
t the Lions could be squeezed out of the championship game by a one-loss team. That's never happened to an unbeaten BCS conference team.
Penn State is dealing with its BCS predicament as expected: by trying to ignore it.
``We still got three weeks to go,'' safety Anthony Scirrotto said. ``All we got to do is stay focused on who we play this week.''
That would be Iowa. While Penn State plays the Hawkeyes (5-4) in Iowa City, Alabama and Texas Tech face ranked opponents. The Crimson Tide goes to No. 15 LSU and the Red Raiders welcome No. 8 Oklahoma State.
And therein lies a big part of why Penn State finds itself in a pickle, needing the Tide or Red Raiders to crash in order to move up.
As the Big 12 and Southeastern Conference stage much-hyped showdowns between highly regarded teams every week, Penn State winds its way through a Big Ten schedule that's just ho-hum - as much Paterno would beg to differ.
``I don't see as many games, or am I as smart as the media when I watch games? I think there's a lot of good football teams in this league,'' Paterno said this week.
Voters became disinterested, he said, ``the minute Ohio State had their problems with Southern Cal, and Michigan hasn't been able to dominate some things, the Big Ten has been kind of a two-team conference. ... but I think we're playing some pretty good football in the Big Ten.''
tandings, as many as the SEC. The Nittany Lions beat 11th-place Ohio State two weeks ago and play 18th-place Michigan State to end the regular season. Northwestern, sitting at 24, is not on Penn State's schedule. Who would have thought missing the Wildcats would HURT the Nittany Lions' strength of schedule?
So maybe the Big Ten is being unfairly graded.
``People are treating the Big Ten like it's the MAC, which is ridiculous. But there's no evidence the SEC is much better (than the Big Ten),'' said Jerry Palm, a BCS analyst and blogger.
Maybe Penn State's problem is Ohio State.
Much the way Sen. John McCain couldn't help but be hampered in his run for the presidency by being from the same party as the unpopular President Bush, Penn State's party, um, conference affiliation with the loser of the last two national title games is a burden.
JoePa could pound his fist on the table at his weekly news conferences from and proclaim, ``I'm not Jim Tressel,'' but poll voters who affect the BCS are still going to remember these two scores: Florida 41, Ohio State 14 and LSU 38, Ohio State 24. And it didn't help when the Buckeyes - Penn State's best opponent this season - got blown out 35-3 by USC in September.
Maybe Penn State should blame Greg Robinson.
y have known playing Syracuse would be a drag on their computer grade in the BCS standings?
The amazing thing about Paterno's four perfect and title-less seasons is he didn't even manage a split championship. It's been fairly common for the two major polls, AP and coaches, to have different champs at the end of the season.
The BCS reconfigured its formula after the last split title in 2003 (USC and LSU) to try and keep that from happening again. So that's off the table for Penn State this season - right? Well ... what about this scenario.
One-loss Florida jumps over unbeaten Penn State and into the BCS national title game against unbeaten Texas Tech. Palm said that isn't likely, but voters are hard to predict. Plus, the SEC has gotten the benefit of the doubt in the BCS race the last two seasons and proved worthy of the chance.
So the Nittany Lions get shipped to the Rose Bowl to play a USC team that's been laying waste to the opposition since a late September hiccup against Oregon State.
Florida beats Texas Tech, gets the crystal football, and by rule, the top spot in the coaches' poll. Penn State beats USC to finish as the only team in the BCS conferences with a perfect record and the AP voters, not obligated to put the winner of the Jan. 8 game on top, vote for the Nittany Lions and Paterno No. 1.
It'd be better than nothing.
lege, Pa., contributed to this report.

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