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TicketCity Bowl Preview – #22 Penn State vs. #19 Houston

Posted By Jeremy Hall On Jan 1 2012 @ 3:18 pm In Penn State | 4 Comments

Penn State ended the 2011 campaign by suffering their worst defeat of the season, a 45-7 dismantling at the hands of the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison. Despite the loss Penn State posted a very respectable 9-3 (6-2 Big Ten) overall record and earned a share of the Big Ten Leaders Division Title. The overachieving Nittany Lions now set their sights on a win over the Houston Cougars in the TicketCity Bowl. The Nittany Lions are definitely battle tested after navigating the 8th toughest schedule in the FBS and earning 9 wins along the way. In fact, 9 of the teams on Penn State’s schedule were bowl eligible, most notably is Alabama who will be playing in the BCS Title Game. The Nittany Lions’ stingy defense has helped keep them in games all season long and they will need to answer the call once again if they hope to slow down the nation’s most prolific offense in Cotton Bowl Stadium on Monday, January 2nd. Penn State and Houston will rekindle a series in which the Nittany Lions hold a 2-0 edge over the Cougars. The last meeting between these two teams resulted in a 31-14 PSU victory at Beaver Stadium back in 1977. A win over the Cougars would give Penn State their 28th bowl victory in 44 appearances. Penn State would love to improve upon their outstanding 65.1% bowl game winning percentage currently 2nd in the nation behind USC’s 66.7% among schools with at least 20 bowl appearances.

The Cougars were one game away from regular season perfection and a potential BCS bowl bid as they headed into the Conference USA Championship Game. However, the Southern Miss Golden Eagles would have none of it as they defeated the Cougars 49-28. Houston was dealt another blow a week after losing the Conference USA Championship Game as Kevin Sumlin was hired as the next Texas A&M head coach. The Cougars will be making their 21st bowl appearance and look to right the ship as they square off against the Nittany Lions in the TicketCity Bowl. A win would give Houston its 13th of the season and extend their school’s single season record for victories. It would also represent the Cougars’ 9th bowl victory. Houston will rely on the record setting arm of quarterback, Case Keenum, to snap their recent bowl game skid. The Cougars are 1-9 in their last 10 bowl games since 1980. Their only victory during that stretch was a 34-28 win over Air Force in 2008.

Important Factors For Penn State Success:

- Penn State’s offensive line must control the line of scrimmage

- Take care of the football (Houston has a +13 turnover margin this year)

- Get Houston’s offense off the field (Houston has converted 52.15% of 3rd downs this season)

- Make Houston beat them on the ground

 Important Factors For Houston Success:

- Force Penn State to beat them through the air (PSU ranks 95th in passing offense this season)

- Exploit PSU’s Red Zone defense (PSU has surrendered points on 94% of opponent Red Zone drives)

- Neutralize PSU’s front four and give Case Keenum time to throw the ball

- Maintain discipline and don’t commit penalties (Houston has committed 79 penalties this season)

 

#22 Penn State Nittany Lions

#19 Houston Cougars

 
Total Offense (yds/gm)

345.42 (93rd)

386.00 (65th)

Total Defense
Rushing Yards/Game

165.08 (48th)

171.77 (78th)

Rushing Defense
Passing Yards/Game

180.33 (95th)

214.23 (46th)

Passing Defense
Sacks Allowed/Game

1.00 (16th)

2.23 (34th)

Sacks/Game
Giveaways

22 (61st)

28 (21st)

Takeaways
3rd Down Conversion %

36.78% (93rd)

37.86% (48th)

3rd Down Conv. % Defense
Red Zone Scoring %

76% (98th)

67% (2nd)

Red Zone Defense
Kickoff Return Average

23.35 (30th)

21.48 (55th)

Kickoff Return Avg. Against
Punt Return Average

6.97 (76th)

8.63 (73rd)

Punt Return Avg. Against
Points Scored/Game

19.75 (110th)

23.08 (40th)

Points Allowed/Game
Penalties Committed

59 for 510 (21st)

79 for 644 (76th)

Penalties Committed
Total Defense

300.92 (10th)

599.00 (1st)

Total Offense (yds/gm)
Rushing Defense

138.75 (48th)

155.23 (61st)

Rushing Yards/Game
Passing Defense

162.17 (4th)

443.77 (1st)

Passing Yards/Game
Sacks/Game

2.42 (25th)

1.31 (29th)

Sacks Allowed/Game
Takeaways

26 (32nd)

15 (9th)

Giveaways
3rd Down Conv. % Defense

38.62% (52nd)

52.15% (4th)

3rd Down Conversion %
Red Zone Defense

94% (118th)

85% (45th)

Red Zone Scoring %
Kickoff Return Avg. Against

21.80 (64th)

21.89 (57th)

Kickoff Return Average
Punt Return Avg. Against

8.13 (65th)

14.14 (10th)

Punt Return Average
Points Allowed/Game

15.67 (5th)

50.77 (1st)

Points Scored/Game

How I See It:

This game pits the nation’s 10th rated defense against the seventh highest scoring offense in NCAA history and something’s got to give.  However, I believe the game will come down to Penn State’s ability to run the football and their ability to sustain drives keeping Houston’s offense on the sidelines.  With Matt McGloin likely out for the game the Nittany Lion passing attack will be limited which means Penn State’s offensive line must dominate Houston’s front seven and open holes for Silas Redd and Stephfon Green.  The Cougars will enjoy the spoils of a New Year’s Bowl victory unless Penn State can win the war in the trenches.

 Penn State 23 Houston 34

 

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