No. 13 Penn State (10-2) and No. 15 Memphis (12-1) meet at the Cotton Bowl Classic on Saturday. Play time is scheduled for noon ET at AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN.
Penn State finished second in the Big Ten East with a 7-2 record. A Cotton Bowl victory would secure the Nittany Lions’ third 11th victory in four years with coach James Franklin, but only their third trophy wins (and the second in New Year’s 6).
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Memphis, meanwhile, won a 5-team representation for the New Year’s Cups going 12-1 and winning the American Athletic Conference, beating Cincinnati in consecutive weeks (winning 34-24 in regular season and 29-24 in AAC). A win here would ensure what is the Tigers’ best season in program history.
Here’s everything you need to know about Penn State betting against Memphis, including updated odds, trends and our forecast for the Cotton Bowl Classic.
Penn State vs. Memphis odds for 2019 Cotton Bowl
- Hearsay: Penn State -6.5
- Total points: 60.5
- Monoyline: Penn State -250, Memphis +210
Penn State is a 6.5-point favorite according to Sports Insider. The line opened at -7.5 in favor of the Nittany Lions.
Penn State vs. Memphis All-Time
This is the first meeting between Penn State and Memphis. The Nittany Lions are 2-0-1 all-time in the cotton bowl. this is the first appearance of the Tigers in this bowl. The Tigers are 4-7 all in bowl games.
Three trends we need to know
– The Nittany Lions are 6-6 this season against the spread and 5-6 when favored. The Tigers are 8-5 against the spread, having never been the underdog all season.
– Penn State is 3-2 against the playoffs since James Franklin’s 2014 takeover, and 5-3 in neutral games.
– The Tigers have been 3-8 against the spread as an outsider since Mike Norvell took over in 2016. He is 2-9 straight as an outsider.
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Three things to look out for
The accuracy of Sean Clifford
Clifford completed just 33 of 60 passes (55%) in losses to Minnesota and Ohio. He only threw for a touchdown, compared to three interceptions. He has 21 touchdowns and 3 steals in 10 Nittany Lions wins. How will he play against a secondary Tigers allowing 200.7 passing yards per game and 14 touchdowns in 10 interceptions all season?
Penn State is in a hurry
Penn State’s top three players (Yetur Gross-Matos, Shaka Toney and second-team American Micah Parsons) have totaled 32.5 tackles for loss and 17.5 sacks this year. Memphis has allowed 21 sacks all season, or about 1.5 per game. If this trio can get behind quarterback Brady White, it could negatively impact his impressive performance this season (3,560 passing yards, 33 touchdowns in nine interceptions).
The success of Kenneth Gainwell
Gainwell, SN’s second American athlete, enters the game as the eighth-best rusher on the FBS at 1,425 yards and 12 touchdowns. But it has only combined for 4.0 yards per carry in the Tigers’ last two wins, both against Cincinnati. Given that it is against one of football’s best defenses (2.6 yards per attempt), Norvell will need to find more ways to get him involved in the offensive game plan. It also has 44 receptions for 532 yards and three touchdowns.
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Stat that matters
Penn State has the fifth-best defense in the country, allowing 97.7 yards per game on the ground, and has allowed only two 100-yard rushers all season against Ohio State’s J.K. Dobbins (157 yards) and Rutgers’ Isaiah Pacheco (102 yards). This is not a good conclusion for Gainwell, who must be included in the Tigers’ game plan in some way to avoid being one-dimensional. Memphis has to go beyond the usual, which means the offensive line has to protect White from the rush of the Nittany Lions.
Penn State vs. Memphis Forecast
Memphis will look out early to get the table, so don’t be surprised if Norvell breaks out a few tricks to catch Penn State out of guard. This may work once or twice, but Memphis as a whole will surpass the Nittany Lions’ offensive and defensive lines. The Tigers will be within striking distance of the half, but the offense, led by big plays by Clifford, receiver KJ Hamler and back Journey Brown will be eliminated in the second half.
Penn State 38, Memphis 27