Tuesday, December 27, 2011

All signs point to bowl drubbing for Nittany Lions

All signs point to TicketCity Bowl defeat for No. 22 PSU (9-3) vs. No. 19 Houston (12-1) 
Well, almost all signs point to a PSU drubbing. Not that anyone will notice the TicketCity Bowl anyway, as it is played concurrently with the Gator, Outback and Capital One Bowls, during the middle of a workday for many Americans

From the file of "Important things about Penn State football that are happening now yet few seem to care about" is the TicketCity Bowl vs. Houston on Jan. 2.

With all of the focus on Paterno, Sandusky and the coaching search, many have overlooked the fact that PSU actually still has a football team (a good team, too) and a bowl game to play, on Monday.

Historically, Penn State is an outstanding bowl team. The Nittany Lions lead all Big Ten teams in bowl victories and winning percentage (27-14-2, 65.1 percent).

But that was P-SS (pre-Sandusky scandal).

We're now in the A-SS world (after-Sandusky scandal ... hmm, not sure that acronym has staying power on a family-friendly blog), which doesn't involve Joe Paterno and is otherwise uncharted.

When trying to determine which team will win a particular bowl game, focus on two related questions:
  1. Which team wants to be there, i.e. actually wants to be playing in this bowl game?
  2. Which team is more motivated to play well, or more mentally/emotionally primed to do well?
In some bowls, the answer to these questions are obvious. In others they are not, or at least aren't clear beforehand.

In this one, they are about as obvious as LaVar Arrington's leaping ability. 

The Penn State players were so not-excited to slide down the Big Ten bowl pecking order due to the Sandusky scandal that upon selection to the TicketCity Bowl they immediately held a players-only meeting in which most surely declining the invitation was mentioned.

Then two PSU prominent players engaged in a violent fight after a practice this month, with one briefly hospitalized.

And that's just the beginning of the list of reasons you should not expect the Lions to play well on Monday: 

PSU TicketCity Bowl 2012 infallible predictive mathematical equation
It starts with the lame duck PSU interim head coach and staff, which knows it will not be retained
+ PSU player disillusionment over the bowls that bypassed the Lions
+ the violent intrasquad PSU fight during practice that left QB Matt McGloin with a concussion
+ the lingering psyche-sapping Sandusky scandal and residual issues related to Joe Paterno - his firing, his cancer treatments, his broken bones, etc.
+ the lingering PSU coaching search
+ the high octane, relentless opponent: Houston and record-setting QB Case Keenum lead nation in scoring, total offense and passing offense, a nifty Triple Crown of offensive greatness 
+ Houston won seven straight games by 30 or more points before an upset loss to Southern Miss with a BCS berth and unbeaten season on the line in the Conference USA championship game, and now the Cougars have shed that pressure and are primed for a redemptive explosion 
+ a hard-to-get-excited about opponent, because Houston plays in a dumpy league and has little tradition
+ the game is being played in the opponent's home state (in Dallas)
+ QB Paul Jones, WR/QB, Curtis Drake, WR Shawney Kersey and CB Derrick Thomas did not make the trip with the team and will not play
+ Rob Bolden possibly will be the primary QB, with McGloin questionable, Jones out and Wildcat QB Drake out.

Add it all up and it = Houston 48, PSU 20

Yep, that would be the prediction. It would be, if the pride of the Penn State seniors and the stellar Penn State coaches - who have prepped teams for bowls for seven straight years - was ignored. 
... And if the fact that Houston had a head coaching change of its own after the regular season (losing Kevin Sumlin to Texas A&M) was overlooked.
... And if Tom Bradley's sterling reputation for thwarting any sort of slightly gimmicky offense when given time to prepare was underestimated.
... And if Penn State didn't clearly have more talent than Houston at every position except quarterback. (It's a colossal disadvantage for PSU at QB, and it is far and away the most important position, but it is the only position the Cougars have an edge.)
... And if PSU wasn't embarrassed by its performance at Wisconsin in the season finale and champing at the bit for an opportunity to redeem itself.
... And if Houston had played a defense even close to as good as the PSU defense this season.

Those all are compelling counter-rationales. Read them, and a Penn State win in the TicketCity Bowl seems likely.

But they're not nearly as compelling as the reasons to expect a defeat. This game just sets up badly for the Lions.

So when PSU gets whipped by Houston on Monday - while setting a record for lowest-rated bowl game due to Florida-Ohio State, South Carolina-Nebraska and Michigan State-Georgia all being on simultaneously - now you'll know why.

And if the Lions flip the script and win, well ... then maybe 2012 will be better than 2011.

It can't be worse, can it?


  1. It can be worse, if you continue the with the same outlook as the whores of the media (espn).

  2. 2012 might not be a good year for PSU football, but it never could be as bad as 2011.