The challenge for Penn State in the Cotton Bowl is to match the execution and the intensity of Memphis, a program that wants to make history with a signature win over a Power 5 team in its first New Year’s 6 bowl.
The Tigers boast an explosive offense that will test the Nittany Lions’ secondary, but it’s all 11 players on defense who must limit their chunk plays. Penn State’s offense, however, should be able to move the ball on the Tigers.
Quarterback Sean Clifford is back after five weeks without game action and with a full week of practice, and so is freshman running back Noah Cain. The Lions’ offensive line will have a size advantage on the Tigers and must capitalize in the running game.
If Penn State’s special teams coverage units can limit the damage against Memphis, this should be a result that evens James Franklin’s bowl record with the Lions at 3-3.
Prediction: Penn State 34, Memphis 24
-- Joe Juliano
While it will be nice for Penn State to have a fully healthy Sean Clifford and Noah Cain, I'm expecting the Nittany Lion offense to come out looking rusty in the first half. Once Penn State finds its stride, however, this is a game it should win. Memphis has a very talented offense, but the Tigers are missing their right tackle and tight end, not to mention all of the coaching staff changes that have been made this month.
This might be the first time since October that this Penn State team will be at full strength and this defense will have the likes of Yetur Gross-Matos, Garrett Taylor, John Reid and Robert Windsor playing in their final games in a Penn State uniform. Brady White has been impressive under center for the Tigers, but he and the Memphis offense haven’t seen a defense like this all season.
Prediction: Penn State 24, Memphis 13
-- Tyler King