Penn State football has a chance to end the season on a high note with a win in the Fiesta Bowl.
The 2017 season didn’t go exactly how Penn State would have wanted it to, but the Nittany Lions still obtained a berth in a prestigious New Year’s Six bowl game. For the second straight year Penn State will face off with an opponent from the Pac-12. The No. 9 Nittany Lions will face off with the No. 11 Washington Huskies.
Penn State finished the regular season with a 10-2 record after blowing second-half leads against Michigan State and Ohio State. Unlike last season, the Nittany Lions missed out on a spot in the Big Ten Championship.
After those stumbles, Penn State finished the regular season with three straight wins over Rutgers, Nebraska, and Maryland.
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Led by quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lion offense can put up points in a hurry and in bunches. Penn State enters the Fiesta Bowl ranked seventh with 41.6 points scored per game. McSorley and Barkley will go down as two of the best in school history at their position.
Also leading the charge on offense is the likes of tight end Mike Gesicki and DaeSean Hamilton, the all-time receptions leader at Penn State. The mix of a potent passing attack and the running of one of the best backs in the nation make the Nittany Lions a very tough team to defend.
Fortunately for the Huskies, they have a defense that will be up to the challenge. Washington finished the regular season ranked fifth in total defense and first against the run. Defensive end Vita Vea is one of the best defensive linemen around.
The Penn State offensive line, a unit that struggled mightily at times this season, could have its hands full with the Huskies. If the ground game falters, the Penn State coaching staff will have to make use of Barkley as a receiver to get the ball in his hands.
Penn State only allowed 15.5 points a game this season, but will be tested by a Washington offense scoring 37 points a game. The Nittany Lions saw their secondary exposed late in the year, something that won’t bode well against Washington quarterback Jake Browning.
On paper, the Fiesta Bowl appears to be a very solid matchup. Both teams are 10-2 and appear to be fairly equal on paper. A blowout by either team would be a surprise, so expect a tight game the whole way that could come down to a big play such as a turnover or a play on special teams.
Kickoff for the Fiesta Bowl is set for 4 p.m. ET. The game, taking place at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona, will be broadcast live on ESPN.