Sunday, January 1, 2012

TicketCity Bowl preview

Houston (12-1) vs. Penn State (9-3)
TV: Noon (ESPNU)
Line: Houston by 7.
Series record: Penn State leads 2-0.
Two teams that encountered coaching upheaval try to end the season on an upbeat note. Gary Levine leads the Cougars for the first time since being promoted to replace Kevin Sumlin, who left to take the job at Texas A&M. Longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley hopes the game isn’t his last with the Nittany Lions since being appointed interim coach after Hall of Famer Joe Paterno was fired Nov. 9.
Houston QB Case Keenum vs. Penn State defensive line. The Cougars’ record-setter with the quick release has been lighting up defenses all season. But Penn State’s defensive line will likely be the best front four he’ll face all season, particularly All-American tackle Devon Still. The Nittany Lions hope they can shuffle linemen in and out to keep up with Houston’s fast-paced offense.
Houston: Keenum. The NCAA career leader in passing yardage (18,865) and touchdown passes (152) gets a shot to prove the Cougars’ 12-0 start wasn’t a fluke against the Big Ten’s stingiest defense (15.7 points).
Penn State: QB Rob Bolden. The sophomore gets the start with first-stringer Matt McGloin sidelined after suffering a seizure and concussion Dec. 17 following a locker room altercation with a teammate. Bolden is more mobile than McGloin, but Penn State’s middling offense has especially struggled with Bolden behind center.
This will be Penn State’s first bowl game without Paterno as head coach since the 1962 Gator Bowl, a 17-7 loss to Florida. ... Penn State will contribute its bowl proceeds, estimated to be up to $2.3 million, to causes devoted to the research and treatment of child sexual abuse. ... The two teams last met in 1977, with Penn State winning 31-14 in Happy Valley. ... The TicketCity Bowl is just one of four non-BCS games featuring a pair of Top 25 teams. Houston is ranked 20th, while Penn State is 24th. ... Houston has won just one bowl game since 1980, a 34-28 victory over Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl. The Cougars are 1-9 in their last 10 postseason appearances. ... Keenum is Houston’s career record-holder for victories (36) and has lead the school to four straight bowl games as a starter. ... Houston LB Sammy Brown is the nation’s leader in tackles for a loss (28).