Penn State superfans: Get exclusive, in-depth Nittany Lions news, analysis and recruiting updates every day. Become a PennLive Football Insider. Only $5.99 a month. Learn more.
Penn State is gunning for its 42nd win since the start of the 2016 season. Think about that. James Franklin’s Nittany Lions won just 14 total games in 2014 and 2015.
But the program is in much better shape now, loaded with NFL-caliber talent thanks to Franklin’s determined recruiting efforts. Penn State’s Cotton Bowl opponent is one of the more underrated teams in the country. The Nittany Lions cannot afford a slow start and PSU is going to have to make some plays in the passing game, something they could not do in games against Ohio State and Rutgers (yes, Rutgers) to close out the regular season.
Here’s a closer look at the Cotton Bowl …
NO. 10 PENN STATE (10-2) vs. NO. 17 MEMPHIS (12-1)
Kickoff: Noon today. (11 a.m. CST).
Site: AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
TV: ESPN. (Mark Jones, Dusty Dvoracek, Olivia Dekker).
Radio: Penn State Radio Network.
Series: First meeting between the two programs.
The spread: Oddsmakers say Penn State by 7. The total is 60.5.
Penn State injury concerns: QB Sean Clifford is expected to play after missing the Rutgers’ game with an undisclosed injury. RB Noah Cain is 100 percent healthy for the first time since the Lions’ Oct. 26 win at Michigan State. DE Yetur Gross-Matos is expected to play after missing the Rutgers’ game with an undisclosed injury.
Memphis injuries/absences of note: TE Joey Magnifico (knee) and DB T.J. Carter (undisclosed) are out; starting RT Scottie Dill is no longer with the team.
Matchup to watch: Penn State’s offensive line vs. the Memphis front seven. Can the Tigers’ run defense step up against one of the better running games in the Big Ten?
The Big Question: Will Penn State be more motivated to play in this bowl game after a disappointing effort in the Citrus Bowl loss to Kentucky last season?
He said it: “I think mentality in bowl games is critical. Mentality in bowl games is critical. You see it every single year. So I think the first thing is talking about it and discussing it. This is the biggest game in Memphis football history, in my opinion. I’m not sure if you feel differently. New Year’s Six bowl game, all those types of things. We’ve discussed that. We’ve talked about it. I think mentality in bowl games is critical. Again, that goes back to the healthy respect that we have for our opponent, not just our opponent but what you’ve just discussed. And, again, I think our guys have prepared well. But we better be ready for a dog fight.” — Penn State coach James Franklin on the challenge that Memphis presents in today’s Cotton Bowl.
FREE Nittany Lions news! Sign up now to receive our Penn State Today newsletter in your email inbox every morning. No charge.