Big Ten Bowl Preview: New Era Pinstripe Bowl


TEAMS: Penn State (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) vs. Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC)

TIME: December 27, 4:30 p.m. EST

Location: Yankee Stadium- Bronx, New York


The most important bowl game for VBR readers is of course the New Era Pinstripe Bowl. After not being able to play in the postseason the past two seasons, there’s a lot of excitement surrounding the Nittany Lions and this game. Tickets for a seat inside of Yankee Stadium are among some of the highest-priced of the entire bowl season.

More from Penn State Football

Penn State began the season with four-straight wins, and after it was announced the Nittany Lions would be eligible for postseason play this season, fans had dreams of a warm bowl destination. However, a four-game losing streak in the middle of the season ended those thoughts. Penn State hit a wall on offense and heads into this game after getting blown out at home in the final game of the year against Michigan State.

Penn State’s offense was plagued by poor play on the offensive line and poor play from sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg. The Nittany Lions finished as one of the worst offensive teams in the country, ranking N0. 114 out of 125 in total offense. Hackenberg, who had a great freshman season in 2013, struggled while under constant pressure this year. He only threw eight touchdown passes and was picked off 15 times.

When Hackenberg was successful throwing the football, his favorite target was freshman wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. The young receiver led the team with 75 catches for 848 yards. His efforts earned him a spot on the Freshman All-Big Ten Team. Aside from Hamilton, the rest of the Penn State receivers struggled this season. Tight end Jesse James led the team with three touchdown receptions.

Despite having three experienced running backs returning, the problems on the offensive line really hurt the run game. Penn State was unable to get much going on the ground this year and finished No. 120 in the nation in rushing yards, averaging just over 100 yards-a-game. Akeel Lynch led the team with 603 rushing yards. Senior Bill Belton ran for six rushing touchdowns.

The strength of Penn State is it’s defense. The Nittany Lions ranked in the top-10 in all major defensive categories and have the No.2 overall total defense. Penn State is the best in the nation against the run. Several key veterans, along with some talented newcomers help account for the effectiveness of the unit.

Senior linebacker Mike Hull is the clear leader and will look to have a huge came in his final game in a Nittany Lion uniform. The same goes for safety Adrian Amos and defensive end C.J. Olaniyan. True freshman Marcus Allen has played a big role in the secondary since the season-ending injury to former starter Ryan Keiser.

The Nittany Lions are strong up front and caused trouble for many opposing offenses this season. Defensive tackle Anthony Zettel had a breakout campaign and really sets the tone for the rest of the defense. While the Nittany Lions are very tough on defense, especially against the run, that will certainly be tested by Boston College.

The Eagles enter this matchup with a very potent offense, though it’s very one-dimensional.

Though Boston College is one of the worst passing teams in the nation, don’t let that fool you. Led by dual-threat quarterback Tyler Murphy, the Eagles finished the regular season ranked No. 14 in rushing offense, averaging 251.8 rushing yards-a-game. Murphy led the way with 1,709 yards on the ground and 1,526 yards through the air. He passed for 11 touchdowns and rushed for 10.

Top running back Jon Hilliman rushed for 712 yards and 12 touchdowns.

With the running ability of Murphy, the Eagles do not throw the ball very much. Josh Bordner led the team this season with 26 catches for 342 yards and three scores. Senior Shakim Phillips caught just 10 passes, but three of them went for touchdowns.

On defense, Boston College is very tough. The Eagles allowed just 20.5 points-a-game in 2014, something that doesn’t bode well for the struggling Penn State offense.

Junior defensive back Justin Simmons led the team with 70 total tackles. Junior linebacker Steven Daniels was second with 68 tackles. Senior linebacker Josh Keyes recorded a team-high four sacks during the season.

The 2014 version of the Pinstripe Bowl has all the makings of a classic low-scoring affair. The Penn State offense couldn’t get out of its own way and will be tested by a stout BC defense. The Penn State defense on the other hand was very good this season, but will face a touch challenge against the talented running offense of the Eagles.

I’m not looking for a lot of points in this one and I feel the battle of field position will be key. I also like senior Sam Ficken to have a big day for the Nittany Lions in this one. It won’t be pretty, but the Penn State offense will do just enough, and the defense will be able to shut down the Boston College rushing attack.

Prediction: Penn State 17  Boston College 10