This post is about the TicketCity Bowl, but you wouldn’t know that by the title.
As I took keyboard in hand, I was thinking, “Has this Turkey bitten off more than he can chew?” Here it is, after 2 am and I’m just getting around to this writing task, which I had thought would be completed by 5 pm. What the hell was I doing painting lamp parts at 2 am, anyhow? No, I don’t think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. I merely think I’m a damn procrastinator. Have been all my life. But I digress.
We’re all focused on January 2’s TicketCity Bowl in Dallas’ original Cotton Bowl — yep, that old dump on the Texas state fairgrounds. Thing is, they’ve completely renovated the joint and it’s now nice. The game itself pits the #19 Houston Cougars (12-1) against our mighty (and mighty beleaguered) #22 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3), who are coming off a sickening 45-7 season ending loss to the Rose Bowl bound #16 Wisconsin Badgers. Houston also suffered a season end embarrassment, but at least they made it to the Conference USA championship game, which they embarrassingly lost to Southern Mississippi 49-28. Prior to that game, Houston was undefeated and ranked in everybody’s top ten, hoping to be the first C-USA team to be invited to a BCS bowl. I suppose they were overcockified, having been an offensive juggernaut all season, ranked first national in points produced, scoring 49 points or more six times and 48 twice going into this game, in which they produced their lowest point total of the season. The Southern Miss defense has good reason to be proud if its performance in the title game. (They went on to beat Nevada 24-17 in the Sheraton Hawaii Bowl.)
Penn State has never lost to a Texas team in Texas or anywhere else, the record being 5-0-1. The last time they played in Dallas, Nittany Lions interim head coach Tom Bradley was a senior in high school (1974).
So, the big question here is, does Penn State have the defensive wherewithal to transmogrify the juggernaut into a leaky rowboat? This is one of those games that everybody goes into assuming that big, bad Penn State will easily whip the little C-USA upstarts. But in the immortal words of Lee Corso, “Not so fast!”
Houston is a passing team, typically running the spread offense. They ranked first in the nation in passing yards, averaging 443.8. Quarterback Case Keenum, a 6-2, 210 lb senior from Abilene led the nation in total offense, completing 71.7% of his passes for 5099 yards with 45 touchdowns and only five interceptions for the season. He was sacked fifteen times. Typically throwing about 40 passes per game, he threw 67 times against Southern Miss, still earning a remarkable completion rate of 61.2%, with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Keenum’s super-studly receivers include seniors Tyron Carrier, with 87 receptions for 914 yards and five touchdowns, Patrick Edwards, with 79 receptions for 1,524 yards and eighteen touchdowns, and Justin Johnson, with 75 receptions for 1081 yards and eleven touchdowns.
Going out on no limb at all, for top-heavy turkeys are not good at perching, I have to say that this is an interesting match-up. Do not pooh-pooh our opponent, please, or you will have egg on your face, a foot in your mouth, and your head up your ass. Now see if you can recover from that contortion!
Penn State’s hallmark is defense, of course, for the poor Nittany Lions have no offense, unless you count Jerry Sandusky’s multiple alleged offenses. It’s going to require a helluva effort by the vaunted defense to hold Houston to a beatable point total. Think they can do it? Not so fast!
No offense. That’s right. Ranking 110th in points produced, they suck and we all know it. So no need to walk on eggs here. They suck. It doesn’t matter whether McGloin or Bolden starts at quarterback. They suck. Maybe McGloin got some sense knocked into him when his head hit the floor during the brief pugilistic episode with Curtis Drake. Maybe not. It still doesn’t matter. McGloin’s concussion could keep him out of the game completely. But suckalogically, it still doesn’t matter. Oh, and speaking of Drake, he won’t be attending the game due to “personal reasons.” He represented a significant threat when he lined up in the wildcat formation, but he ain’t going to be there. That means more predictability, and less offense. Thus more suckage.
Also not making the trip will be Shawney Kersey (“personal reasons”), Paul Jones (grades), and Derrick Thomas (grades).
Penn State is ranked #10 in total defense and #5 in passing defense, having allowed only 162.2 yards per game. They rank fifth also in passing efficiency defense, allowing an average opponent passer rating of 100.05. Thus, the key is maintaining constant pressure on Keenum via the pass rush. The defense must concentrate on stopping the pass, perhaps using frequent nickel and dime packages. Oh, yeah, they’ll be playing the Sandusky/Bradley soft zone. OMG. May the Lord have mercy on their souls! Against the run, the Nittany Lions rank 48th. Will Houston try to run against PSU because of this defensive disparity? I doubt it. When you’re the underdog, you do what you do best. So, Houston’s the underdog, right? Not so fast!
Nope. The little guys from the C-USA school are favored by a touchdown. Take that, big, bad Penn State! How’s that for respect by the bookies and gamblers?
Oh, and guess what? Yeah, don’t tell me — it’s another noon start! You know how good the Nittany Lions are at noon starts on the road. Better hope they don’t guzzle too much beer in Dallas is all I have to say. Hell, it’s practically a home game for Houston, a mere four hour drive north on I-45.
We’re not getting any respect from ESPN, either. The game will be televised, of course, but not on ABC, ESPN, or ESPN2. It’ll be on ESPNU, fourth in the ESPN pecking order. As for announcers, we’ll have Clay Matvick (who?) as the lead guy. Ever wondered what happened to FSU’s wonder boy Danny Kanell? I don’t know either, but he’ll be the color analyst. Finally, a familiar face, the lovely Lisa Salters will be doing the sideline reporting, probably only because of her Penn State ties. She normally doesn’t stoop to ESPNU.
Penn State is the Rodney Dangerfield of football programs.
Both teams have relatively new coaches. Tom Bradley, of course, is interim head coach for Penn State, and Tony Levine just was appointed head coach of Houston after Kevin Sumlin left the team to take on the head coaching job at Texas A&M. At this point in the pre-cap, we would usually hand you Joe Paterno’s bowl record and say, “Uh ohhhhh, sorry Houston!” But no, not this time. Penn State is 27-14-2 in bowl performances, most of them since Paterno took over as head coach, and that means that Tom Bradley has been a part of a lot of them. That’s the best we can say here.
So, there are lots of things going against the Nittany Lions.
The only possible thing that could derail Keenum aside from the PSU pass rush is his newly found penchant for frequent marital relations with his new bride. He claimed that they were both virgins when they married, and, according to reports that weren’t denied by Keenum, they’re making up for it now. So, let’s hope that he continues to get laid regularly and that his wife is insatiable. It’s PSU’s only hope!
I just looked at the BWI predictions for this game. All of the geniuses on the editorial staff pick Penn State to win. (I’m not sure about Phil Grosz, whose prediction reads PENN STATE 31, PENN STATE 28 — he must be planning in advance to predict the Blue/White game.) Furthermore, all of them have Penn State scoring at least 30 points. Which team have they been looking at all season? What have they been smoking? Make it go away, Mommy!
You know, sometimes I wonder about those guys, but lest I wonder too long — it’s already past 4 am — I’ll call this a wrap except for the part you’ve all been waiting for. Yes, folks, this is the final Official Turkey Poop Prediction for this season, which was certainly a tumultuous one. Back in September, who would have had even the slightest idea of what this season would have in store for us all — mainly off the field. Who wants to end that sort of year with a loss? No one. The gamblers think it will be one, though, with Houston favored by seven. The over/under is 56.5 as I write this on Saturday morning. Yeah, I think because of the “noon effect”, the off-field turmoil, the offensive suckage, and last, but not least, the prolific Houston offense, we’re cooked in this game. Take the over, but only because of Houston. This is not going to be pretty. Houston 38, Penn State 20.
On that sorry note, this Turkey would like to thank all my readers, even the ones who disagree with me, for all the great comments during the ups and downs of the 2011-12 season. Let us hope that the new year brings an end to all the non-football distractions, so we can get back to arguing about fun stuff. I wish all of you a happy, safe, and productive New Year!