You may remember Payoff Matrices from economics or maybe from the movie A Beautiful Mind. Anyway, they are a simple way of applying the Nash Equilibrium (Google it if you need to) to determine the best "strategy" in a game. In this case, the strategy is who we want to win the Penn State vs. Ohio State game.
For this exercise I'm assuming the 3 teams in question (Iowa, PSU, and OSU) all take care of business the rest of the season (because none of this matters if Iowa fails to beat Northwestern). So there are 4 scenarios to looks at as seen in the below matrix.
|Iowa Beats OSU||Iowa Loses to OSU|
|PSU Beats OSU||NC/Rose; PSU 11-1; OSU 8-4||Rose Bowl|
|OSU Beats PSU||NC/Rose; PSU 10-2; OSU 9-3||At-Large/Cap One|
The Hawkeyes control only one axis of this matrix...win or lose against Ohio State. If Iowa loses to Ohio State, then obviously the better situation is for Penn State to win on Saturday. This would ensure a Rose Bowl birth. Simple and sweet.
If Iowa wins in Ohio Stadium, then things get a little more interesting. ESPN's Big Ten super blogger Adam Rittenberg outlines the argument for the Buckeyes. He says that Iowa should want OSU to win because "any true competitor wants to play the best, and if Iowa wants to get the credit it deserves for completing a brutal Big Ten road schedule, it should want Ohio State to be ranked as highly as possible..." A fine argument, but he overlooks the fact that Iowa already beat Penn State in Happy Valley. At the end of the year what is going to look more impressive: a road win against an 11-1 PSU and an 8-4 OSU or a road win against a 10-2 PSU and a 9-3 OSU? If Penn State were 11-1 they would be a top 10 team with a likely at-large BCS birth awaiting, and that win back in week 4 would look very impressive. I think that far outweighs a win over a 9-3 Ohio State team that lost to Purdue. If Iowa happens to be jarring for a spot in the championship game and the analysts are weighing in on Iowa's resume, I want a spectacular signature win (something Texas will not have) instead of 2 pretty good wins.
In both Hawkeye controlled cases then (an Iowa win or an Iowa loss against Ohio State), I would argue that a Penn State victory would help the cause. So, I will be fighting and cheering for Penn State this weekend.