Memphis Tigers vs Penn State Nittany Lions
When: 12:00 PM ET, Saturday, December 28, 2019
Where: AT&T Stadium, Arlington, Texas
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
GOODYEAR COTTON BOWL CLASSIC STORYLINES
- Memphis is enjoying its finest season in program history but the man that guided the 15th-ranked Tigers to a school-record 12 wins and an American Athletic Conference crown will not be there for the Cotton Bowl Classic against No. 12 Penn State on Dec. 28. Head coach Mike Norvell accepted the open position at Florida State moments after the Tigers claimed the AAC title with a win over Cincinnati on Dec. 7. Offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield was named the team’s new head coach less than a week later and will lead the team, which has lost four straight bowl games, against the Nittany Lions.
- Penn State head coach James Franklin had been linked to the Florida State job but is settled in State College after inking a pricey six-year extension while guiding his team to a New Year’s Six bowl for the third time in the past four years. His staff is undergoing some changes as well after offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne left to become the head coach at Old Dominion. Penn State is making its first trip to the Cotton Bowl since 1975, when it knocked off Baylor.
- The matchup to watch is the Tigers’ eighth-ranked scoring offense (40.5 points per game) against the Lions’ seventh-ranked scoring defense (14.1), led by linebacker Micah Parsons. He will be keeping his eye on junior quarterback Brady White, who entered bowl season ranked ninth among FBS passers with 3,560 yards to go along with 33 touchdowns. White has plenty of support in the form of running back Kenneth Gainwell, a freshman who piled up 1,425 rushing yards and 532 through the air while scoring 15 times.
TV: Noon ET, ESPN. LINE: Penn State -6.5
ABOUT MEMPHIS (12-1): White struggled a bit in the AAC title game by completing a season-low 45 percent of his passes, and he’s tossed five of his nine interceptions over the past four games. Senior wide receiver Antonio Gibson, who caught the decisive TD pass in the last win, has been utilized more as a runner as the season progressed and rushed 11 times for 130 yards – 65 on one scoring dash – against the Bearcats. Junior Damonte Coxie is White’s favorite target with 68 catches for 1,144 yards and senior linebacker Austin Hall leads the defense with 69 tackles while recording 2.5 sacks and a fumble return for a TD.
ABOUT PENN STATE (10-2): Sophomore quarterback Sean Clifford was enjoying a solid first year as the team’s starter until he was hurt early in a loss at Ohio State on Nov. 23, and freshman Will Levis finished out that game and played the finale against Rutgers the following week. Both signal-callers are backed by a handful of running backs that saw featured roles, with sophomore Journey Brown emerging late with three 100-yard games in November. Parsons had a team-high 95 tackles while junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos – who declared for the NFL draft but will suit up for the Cotton Bowl – had 8.5 sacks.