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Cotton Bowl Preview: Memphis vs Penn State

The AAC-winning No. 17 Memphis Tigers look to collect their first bowl victory since 2014, but to do so they will have to take down the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions. This is the first-ever meeting between these two programs and Penn State is a 7-point favorite with the total coming in at 60.5 points.

Cotton Bowl Matchup Information
  • Spread: Penn State -7
  • Total: 60.5
  • Date/Time: December 28, 12 noon ET
  • Location: Arlington, Texas
  • Stadium: AT&T Stadium
  • TV Coverage: ESPN
  • Memphis vs Penn State Matchup Report and Updated Odds

Cotton Bowl Odds Analysis

Memphis opened as a 7.5-point underdog in this matchup, marking the first time the Tigers haven’t been favored since they were slight 1-point dogs against UCF in last year’s AAC championship game. As for Penn State, it was a double-digit favorite in six of its 12 games this year and covered in three of its five games as a single-digit favorite. The total has remained static since opening at 60.5 points.

Memphis News & Notes

The Tigers put together the best campaign in their program history, going 12-1 with a conference championship and suffering their only loss in a narrow 30-28 defeat at Temple in Week 7. Along the way, Memphis collected a win over then-No. 15 SMU and defeated Cincinnati in back-to-back weeks when the Bearcats were ranked 19th and 20th.

The offense led the charge for Memphis, ranking eighth in the nation in points per game at 40.5 with a good balance between the aerial attack and the ground game. Junior QB Brady White took a step forward in his second year as a starter, improving his marks in touchdowns, passing yards, pass completion percentage and yards per completion. His 3,560 passing yards were the ninth-most in college football.

Meanwhile, redshirt freshman Kenneth Gainwell amassed 1,425 yards on the ground, the eighth-most in the nation. The Tigers go into this game without head coach Mike Norvell, though, as he is taking over the head coaching duties at Florida State next year; associate head coach Ryan Silverfield is in charge in the interim.

Penn State News & Notes

When the first College Football Playoff rankings came out in Week 11, the undefeated Penn State Nittany Lions could be found in the No. 4 spot and had a chance to compete in the CFP if they took care of business down the stretch. Well, that week, Penn State fell 31-26 at then-No. 17 Minnesota and two weeks later lost 28-17 at then-No. 2 Ohio State, dashing its hopes for a Big Ten title and a CFP appearance.

The Nittany Lions offense never really hit its stride this year, scoring more than 30 points in just five games, including three times in conference play. Sophomore QB Sean Clifford had some growing pains in his first season as a starter, completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 2,521 yards, and he was sacked 20 times.

Furthermore, sophomore running back Journey Brown was only able to gain 688 yards with 10 majors on the ground. Defensively, though, the Lions yielded just 14.1 ppg for the seventh-best mark in the nation and were No. 5 against the run, allowing only 97.7 rushing yards per game.

Betting Pick: UNDER 60.5 Points

The total went UNDER in seven of Penn State’s last 10 games with only one game going OVER 60.5 points. With Memphis missing its head coach, there could be a bit of a lull offensively in the early going and much of the onus will have to be put on QB Brady White as RB Kenneth Gainwell goes up against one of the best defensive fronts in the nation.

Shark Bites
  • The UNDER is 7-3 in Penn State’s last 10 games.
  • Penn State allowed the 7th-fewest rush yards per game.
  • Memphis has lost its last 4 bowl games.