The TicketCity Bowl features a Penn State team in total turmoil facing off against a Houston team that has lost its BCS bowl dreams to Southern Mississippi and its head coach to Texas A&M. The Nittany Lions have had one of the toughest seasons ever, and now have to try and handle FBS record-holder Case Keenum and the potent Houston offense. Here’s what I expect next Monday (1/2) at noon in Dallas.
Bowl Breakdown: To call Penn State’s season tumultuous would be a gross understatement. The Jerry Sandusky scandal that cost them the winningest coach in FBS history was only the beginning for the Nittany Lions. The now-tarnished legend that was Joe Paterno was replaced by defensive coordinator Tom Bradley who filled in admirably by all accounts and gave Penn St. a shot at the Big 10 Championship if they would have been able to win their final regular season game. Unfortunately for Bradley the defense that had carried Penn State all year failed miserably to stop the Wisconsin Badgers and the Lions were sent home with a resounding 45-7 thumping. The difficulties didn’t end there, however, after practice on December 17, QB Matt McGloin got into a fight with WR Curtis Drake and suffered a seizure and possible concussion. McGloin may not be medically cleared to play on Monday which would give the start to backup Rob Boldin (who was recently busted for stealing a Gatorade from the cafeteria, no really I’m not making this up) or Paul Jones (who was redshirted last season and then academically ineligible for this season.) With all the uncertainty at QB look for the Nittany Lions to run their offense through RB Silas Redd against a Cougars defense that’s been beatable on the ground all year… The Houston offense will have it’s own challenges and QB Case Keenum looks to go out on a hight note, but he’ll have to do it against the 5th ranked pass defense in the country. Keenum tore through the FBS felling multiple records until the Southern Miss defense stopped him cold in the Conference USA Championship game. These Nittany Lions will be his toughest challenge yet, and also his chance to go out on top and improve his draft stock (see below). He’ll be under a new head coach in this one as Kevin Sumlin has left the school to take over Texas A&M and the new head coach is Tony Levine who has had the interim tag officially removed as of December 22nd and has served as assistant head coach since 2010 after joining the team in 2008. Both teams are in times of serious transition, but UH doesn’t have nearly the turmoil Penn State does. The Lions offense is so bad that they have to not just limit but completely shut down this Cougars offense that scored an average of 50.8 points a game to lead the nation. I don’t see that happening and am taking Houston with quite a bit of confidence.
Pro Prospects: Case Keenum-Houston-QB: Keenum is a smart QB, and going into draft day you’ll hear a lot about where this guy could end up. His arm strength is solid but not spectacular and his mobility is limited, but his winner’s attitude and absolutely crazy number will entice teams. Keenum will probably be coming off the board in the 4th or 5th round since most people think he needs some time to develop and grow in the right system…Sammy Brown-Houston-LB: Brown is a super-fast outside line-backer who led the country with 28 tackles for loss and ranks among the top five nationally with 12.5 sacks. Brown is small and would need to bulk up to succeed at the next level, but should still come off the board in the middle rounds (5-6) depending on how he does in the pre-draft process..Devon Still-Penn St.-DT: Still has had an incredible season in the midst of the turmoil in Happy Valley and has worked his way into the 1st round discussion as one of the top DT’s in this draft. He gets good penetration up the middle and anchors the tough D-line of the Lions. He’ll probably go early to mid-2nd round, but with a good pre-draft showing could go to a playoff team late in round 1.
Editor’s Note: This article is part of our ongoing series for our Bowl Mania. You can find the same type of analysis for the Gator, Chick-fil-A, Liberty, Kraft Fight Hunger, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, Music City, Pinstripe, Armed Forces, and the Sun Bowls. Or check out the Independence, Poinsettia, Beef ‘O’ Brady’s, Little Caesars, Alamo, Champs Sports, Holiday, Military, Belk, New Orleans, MAACO Las Vegas, New Mexico, Hawaii, and Idaho Potato Bowls to see how accurate our breakdown was.