2012 TicketCity Bowl Houston vs Penn State Odds, Free Picks and Predictions on ESPNU 1/2/12

Free College Football Bowl Picks and Spreads: Houston vs Penn St 2012 TicketCity Bowl Vegas Odds, Free Picks, and Expert Predictions on ESPN 1/2/12: The 19th-ranked Houston Cougars (12-1) were one win away from playing in the program’s first BCS bowl, but a loss to Southern Miss in the Conference USA title game ended the magical season. Of course, Houston’s disappointment is nothing compared to the circus that the 22nd-ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3) have dealt with. The Jerry Sandusky molestation scandal has ravaged the program, costing legendary coach Joe Paterno his job and creating a never-ending distraction for Penn State football. When the two teams meet in Monday’s TicketCity Bowl, the Nittany Lions will try to begin the rebuilding process with a bowl victory, while the Cougars will try to cap an incredible season on a high note. Houston is a six-point favorite in the matchup.

On paper, the Cougars would seem to have an overwhelming advantage on offense, piling up more than 250 more yards of offense per game than Penn State. More importantly, Houston was the top scoring team in the country this year, averaging more than 50 points a game. Meanwhile, the Nittany Lions were one of the 10 worst teams in the country, averaging less than 20 points a game. Needless to say, Penn State can’t afford to let Monday’s game turn into a shootout if it hopes to upset the Cougars.

Fortunately for the Nittany Lions, they make up for their anemic offense with a stifling defense. Penn State is allowing just 15.7 points per game on the year, which ranks fifth in the country. That scoring average was even better until the Wisconsin Badgers dropped 45 points on Penn State in the regular season finale. The Nittany Lions were able to win nine games and go 6-2 in the Big Ten thanks to their defense. This unit has a chance at slowing down any offense, including the Cougars’ high-scoring attack.

In fact, the Penn State defense matches up well against Houston’s offense. Led by record-setting quarterback Case Keenum, the Cougars had the top passing attack in the country. Keenum has more than 5,000 passing yards this season to go along with 45 touchdowns and just five interceptions. However, he will be passing a stingy Penn State secondary that ranks fourth in the country in yards allowed. The Nittany Lions will be by far the best defense Keenum has faced, and while his performance will have a big impact on his draft status, it will have an even bigger impact on the outcome of the game.

Even if the Nittany Lions can control Keenum and company, they still have to score some points of their own. That could be easier said than done, considering the situation at quarterback. Starter Matt McGloin, who wasn’t great to begin with, may not be able to play after being injured in an incident off the field. Backup Rob Bolden was even worse, completing less than 50 percent of his passes and throwing just one touchdown compared to four interceptions.

If Penn State is going to win, it will have to rely mainly on running back Silas Redd, who topped 1,100 yards this season. Redd has the ability to control the clock and slow down the Cougars’ offense, which will be a must for Penn State. The good news is that Houston’s defense has been mediocre against the run this season, but the lack of a passing game will allow the Cougars to focus on shutting down Redd.

At the end of the day, Penn State’s defense is likely to make life difficult for Keenum. That being said, the Cougars won’t need to score 50 points to beat a Nittany Lions bunch with a lackluster offense. Even on a bad day, Houston can score 30-plus points, and that should be more than enough to take care of Penn State.

Prediction: Houston Cougars (-7) Cover the Spread

Free College Football Picks and NCAAF Predictions: Houston -7 to cover the spread

2012 TicketCity Bowl: Penn St vs Houston
Date: 1/2/12
Time: 12 PM EST on ESPNU
Vegas Odds Favorite: Houston -7 Total: Over/Under 56.5

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