Penn State finds itself in the strangest of big college football bowl games.
On one hand, the Nittany Lions will be playing the legendary Cotton Bowl in the NFL’s most grandiose stadium.
However, they’ll also be kicking off at 11 a.m. in Dallas … on Dec. 28 … against a team from the American Athletic Conference.
Who knows exactly what frame of mind the Lions will be in when playing the 12-1 Memphis Tigers on Saturday.
To be honest, Penn State hasn’t put together a complete four quarters since … that rain-soaked day at Michigan State? Maybe not since Iowa. It’s been a long time.
Now they’re being asked to do exactly that against an undervalued bowl game opponent for the second straight season.
Of course, they bumbled through that narrow loss to Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl on New Year’s Day. The Wildcats were the most focused and fired-up team.
And Penn State’s motivation and preparation will be tested yet again. They will be expected to control the line of scrimmage, and must do so, to fend off the wide-open Tigers who are living to pull the upset.
They want to move like a brush fire behind superb triggerman Brady White. Their weapons are aplenty and figure to cause Penn State’s secondary various issues.
But the Lions own more power up front on offense and defense than last year — which can overcome everything else.
While they’re wearing down Memphis on offense, their front seven should gradually win the day on defense. Watch for linebackers Micah Parsons and Cam Brown to flash throughout and for their youngest defensive ends to disrupt the backfield in the second half.
This isn’t the Rose Bowl and it’s not a name-brand opponent to inspire like Alabama or Auburn.
But the Lions know what happened this time last year. They know about their grand possibilities in 2020.
And they should play more like this is the first step to next season.