Goodyear Cotton Bowl: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
No. 17 Memphis vs No. 10 Penn State (-6.5, 60.5)
It doesn't really matter how good a Group of Five team is, there will always be questions about their level of competition. Not only has Penn State played the tougher schedule this year, but both losses came against very good teams (OSU and Minnesota) on the road.
Although the Tigers powered for 197.8 rushing yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry, they're going to have a much more difficult time finding success against a Penn State defense that held opponents to just 2.8 yards per rush attempt.
The Nittany Lions will also have the coaching edge in this one as former Memphis head coach Mike Norvell has confirmed he will not be on the sidelines for the bowl game after signing with Florida State.
Neither interim head coach Ryan Silverfield nor offensive coordinator Kevin Johns called offensive plays for Memphis this year, so Norvell’s absence could be huge. Take PSU to win and cover.
PICK: Penn State -6.5
Memphis has one of the most explosive offenses in the country, averaging 40.5 ppg, but they haven't faced a defense anywhere near PSU's level. Led by defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and linebacker Micah Parsons, the Nittany Lions hold opponents to just 14.1 points per game.
PSU also limited the Ohio State Buckeyes to 28 points and 5.0 yards per play. If they can contain the Buckeyes they can contain the Tigers. Take the Under.
PICK: Under 60.5
Penn State averages 34.2 points per game but that number is heavily inflated by two contests; their season opener against FCS Idaho where they put up 79 points and their September matchup with Maryland where they scored 59 points against a Terrapins defense that ranks outside the Top-120 schools in the country.
Take those two games out of the equation and PSU averages 27.3 ppg. Memphis is better known for their potent offense but they have a respectable defense that allows 24.4 ppg and 5.1 yards per play to FBS foes. We like the Under on PSU’s team total.
PICK: Penn State Under 33.5
TRENDS TO WATCH
• Tigers are 0-5 ATS in their last 5 bowl games as an underdog.
• Tigers are 1-10 ATS in their last 11 games in December.
• Nittany Lions are 8-3-1 ATS in their last 12 non-conference games.
• Over is 8-1 in Nittany Lions last 9 non-conference games.
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