HOUSTON - DECEMBER 03: Quarterback Case Keenum #7 of the Houston Cougars salutes the crowd for the last time after scoring in the fourth quarter against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles during the Conference USA championship game at Robertson Stadium on December 3, 2011 in Houston, Texas. Southern Miss Golden Eagles won 49-28. (Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images)
The nightmare bowl scenario unfolded for Penn State Sunday night, as they fell all the way to the #7 Big Ten selection and will play pass-happy Case Keenum and Houston in the TicketCity Bowl. That's noon on January 2nd, on ESPNU, by the way. Set your alarms.
The teams selected ahead of Penn State in the bowl process? Ohio State (6-6) will face Florida in the Gator Bowl. Northwestern (6-6) plays Texas A&M in the Meineke Car Care Bowl. Iowa (7-5) takes on Oklahoma in the Insight Bowl. Penn State (9-3) beat and had won at least two more games than all three of these Big Ten teams -- and it didn't matter, due to the Jerry Sandusky scandal fallout. It's not a fair result for the players, who were justifiably shocked and disappointed in the hours leading up to the formal announcement. It's bowl business, and bowl business isn't fair. It's about advertising and branding.
Considering the way the child molestation accusations were initially buried and the comical institutional ineptness with which Penn State responded after the scandal broke (despite having months to prepare an adequate response), the radioactivity of the Penn State brand with respect to this postseason was unavoidable. Blame ESPN, the New York Times, or whomever else in the media if it makes you feel better. These wounds were self-inflicted in every way, and needlessly so.
Despite the Lions' precipitous drop through the bowl selection process -- a rarity for a program that has routinely jumped other Big Ten teams due to its large and travel-ready fanbase -- Penn State ends up with a rather intriguing matchup against the Cougars.
Houston is dealing with their own form of misery, with their undefeated season coming to a crashing halt in a blowout loss in the Conference USA title game against Southern Miss. Their head coach, Kevin Sumlin, is being talked about for a number of current vacancies, including Texas A&M. Unless Houston ponies up a new contract for Sumlin, we're looking at a battle of interim coaches.
Tickets are selling for as cheap as $25 for lower-level end zone seats. There's also a family four-pack deal: 4 End Zone Game Tickets, 4 Hot Dogs, and 4 Soft Drinks for $99. Use the promo 4PACK for this deal.