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Pinstripe Bowl Preview: Penn State vs. Boston College

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Penn State hopes to end the season with a winning record with their first bowl victory since the 19-17 triumph against LSU in the 2010 Capital One Bowl.

Penn State (6-6, 2-6) vs. Boston College (7-5, 4-4)

Kickoff: 4:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 27, Yankees Stadium, Bronx, NY

The Line: Penn State +2.5

TV: ESPN Bob Wischusen (play-by-play), Matt Millen (commentary), Quint Kessenich (sideline)

Weather: Partly cloudy with temperatures in the upper-40s, little chance of rain. 

COACHES:

James Franklin:

PENN STATE RECORD: 6-6, 1st Year

OVERALL RECORD: 30-21, 4th Year

VS. BOSTON COLLEGE: 0-0

Steve Addazio:

BOSTON COLLEGE RECORD: 14-11, 2nd Year

OVERALL RECORD: 27-22, 4th Year

VS. PENN STATE: 0-2

...NOW THE FUN PART

BOSTON COLLEGE OFFENSE VS PENN STATE DEFENSE
Boston College has a similar offensive DNA to Minnesota- run the ball very well, and pass enough to keep the defense honest. The Eagles have one of the best rushing attacks in the nation, averaging more than 250 yards on the ground per game. Leading the way for B.C. is senior quarterback Tyler Murphy who exceeded the 1,000 yard rushing mark to go along with 10 touchdowns. Murphy has unusual quickness considering his tall and lanky build, and it will be crucial for Penn State to make sure he is accounted for in all situations. Not far behind Murphy is freshman running back Jon Hilliman, who finished with 712 yards and 12 touchdowns. Hilliman is a powerful runner who specializes in short-yardage situations and could very well be the X-factor in the Pinstripe Bowl. He may be lacking the burst to make many plays against Penn State's defense- he struggled against some of the better defenses on the schedule, averaging just 1.4 yards per carry against Clemson, 0.8 versus Virginia Tech and 1.6 against Syracuse. However, if Penn State's offense fails to stay off the field, Hilliman's battering ram running style could go a long ways in wearing down a tired Nittany Lions defense.

Murphy does the strong majority of his damage on the ground, but can be effective through the air in the limited times he passes the ball. The last time Murphy had more than 19 pass attempts in a game was a week two loss against Pitt. He's a streaky passer- some games he makes the most of his opportunities in the air, while other games his performance has made it obvious why B.C. is primarily a running team. The senior has nearly as many interceptions (10) as touchdowns (11) and can be forced to make poor decisions at times. Bob Shoop is certainly studying the tape of B.C.'s week 11 loss against Louisville, who managed to pick off four of Murphy's passes in a 38-19 victory.

Penn State's defensive philosophy for the Pinstripe Bowl should be both simple and familiar- shut down the running game and force Murphy to make plays with his arm. No one stops the run better than the Nittany Lions, and if they are able to get enough rest they could severely limit the Eagles offensive output.

BOSTON COLLEGE DEFENSE VS PENN STATE OFFENSE
Just like Penn State, the strength of the B.C. defense is the ability to stop the run. The Eagles are allowing a measly 95.5 yards per game on the ground, good for fourth in the nation. If you have any visions of long scampers by Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton behind a young offensive line that quickly gelled during the extra practices, you may want to temper your expectations.  While the line could be improved, it will be difficult to tell against an outstanding B.C. front seven.

Unlike Penn State, however, the Eagles have a bit of a drop off against the pass. The Eagles allow 218 yards per game through the air. For Penn State's offense to have much success on Saturday, it will be vital for Christian Hackenberg to have some time in the pocket.

B.C. knows how to get to the quarterback, and they are capable of applying pressure from across the field. While they may not have a single elite pass-rusher, in all six members of the B.C. defense have at least three sacks on the season. Unfortunately, it seems as though the Eagles set-up perfectly to shut down the Penn State offense by stuffing the run and not allowing Hackenberg any time in the pocket. If teams like Indiana and Illinois succeeded with this, the Eagles definitely have the talent to shut down the Nittany Lions offense.

Linebacker Josh Keyes is the biggest playmaker on the defense. The senior leads the team in sacks (4.0), tackles for loss (11.5) and is third in tackles (63). B.C. may not have a player on defense who pops off the screen like an Anthony Zettel or Mike Hull, but collectively they make up a stingy unit where everyone does their job very well.

SPECIAL TEAMS:
The Eagles have an excellent punter in senior Alex Howell, who is averaging 42.9 yards per punt in 2014. Howell has a big leg and will need to have one of his best performances in a game where field position will be a huge factor. He also split some of the placekicking duties, but did not find as much success, connecting on just five of 11 attempts. He especially struggled with attempts beyond 39 yards, going just three for nine. Senior Joey Launceford was a perfect four-for-four on the season, but his long was just 28 yards.

Sophomore Myles Willis is a dangerous returner will will need to be slowed down. Just one big return from Willis could be enough to swing the game in the Eagles favor.

PREDICTION: PENN STATE-13 BOSTON COLLEGE-10
The Pinstripe Bowl has the makings of a good ol' fashioned game of smashmouth football where points are at a premium and every inch will need to be earned. Both defenses match up very well with the opposing offenses, so expect plenty of three-and-outs and battles for field position. In a game that will likely come down to a late turnover or special teams play, I'll pick with my heart and say Penn State's defense once again dominates and the offense does just enough to squeak by with a late field goal.

Mike Hull cements his legacy at Linebacker U. with an 18 tackle performance, C.J. Olaniyan exits on a high note with a sack and a two additional negative hits, while Nyeem Wartman prepares to inherit the throne from Hull with 10 tackles and and a sack. The season ends in the same manner it began- with Sam Ficken hoisting a trophy earned in part by the senior's late heroics.