Where: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
Penn State’s Saquon Barkley (26)
1. Penn State has enjoyed a wonderful history in the Fiesta Bowl and the ninth-ranked Nittany Lions will try to stay perfect in the event when they take on No. 12 Washington on Dec. 30 in Glendale, Ariz. Including a win over Miami in a national title game in 1987, Penn State is 6-0 in the Fiesta Bowl, which will be hosting the Huskies for the first time. Both squads had designs on a berth in the College Football Playoff – Washington for the second straight season – but both suffered two single-digit losses on the road, which was just enough to keep them on the outside looking in.
2. The Huskies have back-to-back double-digit wins for the first time since 1990-91 as their turnaround under head coach Chris Petersen has been remarkable. Petersen is 6-4 in bowl games and won the Fiesta twice while at the helm in Boise State, capping undefeated seasons in 2006 and 2009. “You couldn’t be (happier) with this bowl,” Petersen told reporters earlier this month. “We’re thrilled. We thought we were going to three different ones before we got word we were going to the Fiesta, so we’ve been there a few times and it’s first-class. We’re excited.”
3. Both teams have dynamic junior running backs who could be playing their final games, as Washington’s Myles Gaskin bids for space on the highlight reel with Penn State’s dynamic Saquon Barkley. Gaskin needs 18 rushing yards for his third straight 1,300-yard season and his 19 touchdowns on the ground ranks third nationally, while Barkley has claimed consecutive Big Ten MVP awards and also has three 1,000-year seasons to his credit. Barkley amassed 249 total yards and three TDs in last year’s Rose Bowl loss to USC, but Gaskin was limited to 34 yards rushing on 10 carries in the CFP semifinal loss to Alabama.
TV: 4 p.m. ET, ESPN. LINE: Penn State -2.
ABOUT WASHINGTON (10-2, 7-2 Pac-12): Junior quarterback Jake Browning saw a dip of nearly 900 yards and 25 touchdowns from his phenomenal 2016 campaign, but he is the school’s all-time leader with 77 TD passes and is on the verge of becoming its second 9,000-yard career passer, numbers he will need to build up to keep pace with the Nittany Lions. “I haven’t watched a ton of them but obviously saw them against (USC in the Rose Bowl) last year put up a lot of points,” Browning recently told reporters. Browning’s favorite target is senior Dante Pettis (721 receiving yards, seven TDs), and the defense is led by 340-pound lineman Vita Vea, a likely first-round selection in the upcoming NFL Draft.
ABOUT PENN STATE (10-2, 7-2 Big Ten): Trace McSorley led the Big Ten in passing (3,228 yards) and added 431 yards and 11 TDs on the ground to pace the nation’s seventh-ranked scoring attack (41.6 points). The junior signal-caller threw three interceptions in the Rose Bowl last year and did the same in the Lions’ second loss at Michigan State on Nov. 4, but he threw for seven scores – with no picks – and ran for three more in the final three games of the regular season. McSorley, who has already appeared on lists of 2018 Heisman Trophy favorites, needs 186 passing yards to move into second all-time at Penn State and 387 to surpass his own single-season mark of 3,614 set last year.