Bowl games are tough to predict for a number of reasons. There’s been a number of coaching staff shakeups between both teams, players choose to sit out, and in the case of Penn State last year, there can be disappointment in which game you end up playing in. Memphis has been good and Penn State’s defense kind of limped down the stretch, but you can almost throw that all out the window. We’ll see what Tyler Bowen can cook up with the offense and, given some time to heal up, if the defense can reclaim their early season form.
Penn State 31, Memphis 16
When I see Memphis, I see a fun team. A team that can score points in a hurry, and has posted some impressive wins over the course of the season. What I DON’T see is a team that is necessarily built to play a team like Penn State - that is, one with an aggressive, fast defense at all three levels. In their lone game against a P5 team, Memphis won 15-10 over Ole Miss, which was at home, oddly enough.
Penn State is top to bottom the more talented team, and while I expect Memphis to score some points - particularly in the passing game - I just don’t see the Tigers having enough fuel in the tank to compete.
Penn State 35, Memphis 17
After the embarrassing Kentucky loss, I think Penn State will be up for this. It’s not the Rose Bowl, but it’s still a big-time NY6 Bowl and I think the players want that top 10 finish. Memphis is good, not great, and losing Mike Norvell certainly hurts. We’ll see what Tyler Bowen has up his sleeves, but a big talent advantage should help.
Penn State 34, Memphis 20
The bad news for Penn State is that this is the biggest game in program history for Memphis and their Super Bowl. The good news is this is about the sixth time this season (Pitt, Maryland, Iowa, Minnesota, Indiana) Penn State has been on the opposite end of another team’s biggest game ever/Super Bowl. Another big plus for Penn State is that Memphis will be without Mike Norvell and defensive coordinator Adam Fuller, while the Nittany Lions still have James Franklin.
This game presents opportunities abound. Opportunity for Memphis to land the biggest win in program history, opportunity for interim Penn State offensive coordinator Tyler Bowen to continue to solidify himself as a rising star in coaching ranks and opportunity for Penn State to log 11 victories for the third time in four years, as well as for Franklin to get above .500 in New Year’s Six Bowl Games.
I believe Penn State will be motivated after last year’s bad Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky, as well as being motivated to truly solidify themselves as a legitimate College Football Playoff contender heading into 2020. Look for Sean Clifford to have a big game in his return to the lineup and for KJ Hamler to go off in his likely swan song. The Memphis offense will make this interesting for the majority of the game, but Penn State’s defensive line eventually wear their depleted offensive line down. Combine this with an average at best Memphis defense facing by far the most talented offense it has seen all season and the Nittany Lions walk away with a victory that catapults the Nittany Lions into the offseason with a boat load of momentum.
Penn State 38, Memphis 24
Memphis enters this game with a new play-caller, right tackle, tight end, and defensive coordinator. It’d be silly to say that the Tigers would be able to play their best game with that many new faces. That said, this is a very talented squad, especially on offense, where the Nittany Lions have struggled in the defensive backfield.
I think the Nittany Lions do enough to outscore Memphis and come out on top in Dallas.
Penn State 35, Memphis 21
Yes, Memphis may have lost its head coach and defensive coordinator, as well as their starting right tackle and tight end, but make no mistake: This is a Memphis team still capable of lighting PSU up with their offense, especially if the pass rush is virtually non-existent and the secondary continues with their leaky ways.
That being said, give me a motivated PSU team with a healthy Sean Clifford leading the passing attack with Journey Brown/Noah Cain running over Memphis’ shaky run defense. I’d also look for Yetur Gross-Matos to ball out in his final game as a Nittany Lion as well as KJ Hamler, who in all likelihood, is playing his final college game, too.
Penn State 38, Memphis 31
(originally appearing in the Game Preview)
I won’t lie, this match-up has made me nervous since it was announced. The Tigers do many things very well, and will not be an easy team to walk over like some other automatic non-5 qualifiers in the past. This team is legitimate, with plenty of talent on both sides of the ball and a tenacious and prolific special teams unit that always gives them a huge advantage.
However, I also don’t expect this particularly team to take Memphis lightly, or fail to show up for its bowl game. The 2019 Penn State team has overcome many things throughout the season, and have shown they never lack fight or effort, and will be all business on Saturday.
KJ Hamler and Journey Brown both lead the charge for the offense. In what could be his final game as a Nittany Lion, Hamler contributes 105 receiving yards and a score, as well as a huge kick return to set up a key touchdown in the second half. Journey Brown goes off for 120 yards on the ground and two touchdowns, while Pat Freiermuth finds some holes in the Tigers defense to add another.
On defense, Micah Parsons demonstrates why he is a first-team All-American selection with 14 tackles, 3 TFLs and a forced fumble. Yetur Gross-Matos goes out with a bang before heading to the NFL with 1.5 sacks, and Robert Windsor and Shaka Toney each contributing one as well.
Most importantly, Penn State clinched the game with a clock-churning drive, a pleasant occurrence that has become a regular occurrence in 2019 that was nowhere to be seen in the past.
Penn State 31, Memphis 24