Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, November 29, 2016

The journey to Indianapolis for the Big Ten title game was a long and winding road for Big Ten East champ Penn State.


Here is a look at five key games for James Franklin's team that played a big part in Penn State landing in the Big Ten?s premier event for the first time.

Sept. 24, at Michigan. Penn State fans may not want to remember the 49-10 beating the Nittany Lions suffered at No. 4 Michigan, as PSU was outgained 515 to 191. But it was a turning a point for the team, as the Nittany Lions slowly but surely returned to health and never lost another game, closing out the season with eight consecutive wins.

Oct. 1, Minnesota. Penn State was 2-2, at a potential tipping point coming off a 49-10 thrashing at No. 4 Michigan with Minnesota visiting State College, Pennsylvania. The Nittany Lions? season could go either way. But Penn State pulled out a big win, kicking a field goal with two seconds left to force overtime and then winning 29-26 win on a 25-yard TD run by Saquon Barkley (watch it here). It was the first of what would be eight wins in a row.

Oct. 22, Ohio State. Penn State trailed, 21-7, through three quarters vs. the No. 2 Buckeyes. But that?s when the Nittany Lions rallied with 17 fourth-quarter points. The winning score came when Grant Haley ran back a blocked field goal 60 yards for a TD to give PSU a 24-21 win.

Nov. 5, Iowa. A visit from the rugged Hawkeyes threatened to end the Nittany Lions? four-game winning streak. But Penn State rolled on, crushing the Hawkeyes, 41-14, as the Nittany Lions outgained Iowa, 599-234. The Nittany Lions offense was purring like never before and hasn?t let up since.

Nov. 26, Michigan State. After Ohio State had toppled Michigan, Penn State was set up to win the Big Ten East. All the Nittany Lions had to do was beat Michigan State. No way PSU would be denied. MSU led 12-10 at the half, but the Nittany Lions rolled in the second half, outscoring the Spartans 35-0 en route to a 45-12 win to claim the East and advance to the Big Ten title game for the first time.