Penn State is the favorite heading west in the Playstation Fiesta Bowl against Washington. According to OddsShark, the Nittany Lions are favored by 2.5 points, and the total is set at 54.5.
Both teams had 10-win regular seasons, but neither was impressive when it came to Vegas. Penn State was 7-4-1 against the spread this year, and failed to cover in three of their final four games. Washington finished similarly at 7-5, and also failed to cover in two of their final three.
These teams don’t see each other during the regular season, but there’s bad blood tracing back to last year. The 2016 Nittany Lions won the Big Ten, only to see Washington named in their place at the College Football Playoff. The Huskies fell to Alabama in the playoff, and Penn State fell to USC in a wild Rose Bowl.
Here’s a look at how the two teams matchup as well as our Fiesta Bowl prediction.
Penn State vs. Washington: How They Got to the Fiesta Bowl
Penn State looked destined for the playoffs in October, but back-to-back losses put a quick end to that dream. James Franklin has now posted consecutive double-digit win seasons in Happy Valley, and a national bowl win would further hammer the idea that Penn State has returned to national prominence.
Washington also faced midseason struggles, losing two games inside four weeks to end their playoff run. Chris Peterson has built a strong program out west, but he’s started his tenure 1-3 in bowl games. Washington continues to struggle in close road games, falling at Stanford and Arizona State this season.
In this matchup, the lights will be brightest in Penn State’s backfield. Saquon Barkley is projected to be a star in the NFL, and will likely be one of the first players to hear his name at the draft next year. Barkley has touched the ball at least 14 times in every game this season, in addition to his explosive kick returning duties.
Unfortunately for Barkley, his foil stands in the middle of the Washington defense. Vita Vea a monster defensive tackle, and one of the reasons the Huskies enter the Fiesta Bowl with the best run defense in the nation. The Huskies have elite talent at every level on defense, and they’ll make things difficult for Barkley and Lions QB Trace McSorely.
If the Huskies can get stops, it’s up to their own explosive offense to take the game. Jake Browning will get his name tossed around during Draft Season, but he’s mistake-prone and can be pressured into mistakes. The biggest X-factor is wide receiver Dante Pettis, who can make a big play every time he touches the ball. If he can get loose, the Huskies have a shot at this shootout in the desert.
Heavy’s Prediction: Penn State 31, Washington 38
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