Memphis vs. Penn State Prediction: How to Bet the Cotton Bowl Classic

Getty The Penn State Nittany Lions will face the Memphis Tigers in the Cotton Bowl. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

The Penn State Nittany Lions are 7.0-point favorites over the Memphis Tigers in Saturday’s Cotton Bowl Classic at AT&T Stadium.

Memphis (12-1) has already set the single-season program record for wins. Offensive line coach Ryan Silverfield will serve as the interim head coach in this game as Mike Norvell accepted the open position at Florida State. Norvell announced the move just moments after the Tigers came from behind to beat Cincinnati 29-24 in the AAC title game. Quarterback Brady White has had a career campaign with 33 touchdowns to just nine interceptions, however, five of those picks have come in his last five games. Memphis is looking to snap a four-game bowl losing streak.

Penn State (10-2) is playing in the New Year’s Six for the third time in the last four years. The coaching staff is going through a bit of an upheaval as offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne departed to become the head coach at Old Dominion. The Nittany Lions hired from within the Big 10 conference, as Minnesota offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca was hired to replace Rahne. Junior defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos will play despite declaring for the NFL draft. Journey Brown has emerged out of the Penn State backfield with three 100-yard games in November.

ESPN’s FPI gives Penn State a 71.4% chance of winning this game. We break down the line and offer our best bets and analysis for Saturday’s Cotton Bowl between the Tigers and Nittany Lions. 

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Memphis vs. Penn State Game Details

Date: Saturday, December 28
Time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: AT&T Stadium (Arlington, Texas)
Penn State -7
Total: 60

*All lines and odds courtesy of SportsMemo, Covers, & The Action Network

Line Movement

This line opened at Penn State -9.5 and has been bet down slightly to Penn State -7 despite the majority of the bets and action coming in on the Nittany Lions. This indicates a reverse line move favoring Memphis.

Betting Trends

  • Memphis is 12-1 SU and 8-5 ATS this season
  • Penn State is 10-2 SU and 6-6 ATS this season
  • Over is 8-5 in Memphis games this season
  • Under is 7-5 in Penn State games this season

Analysis & Pick

I’m fascinated to see how the Tigers’ high-octane offense matches up against Penn State’s stingy defense. Memphis is ranked 8th in FBS in scoring offense averaging 40.5 points per game while the Nittany Lions are 7th in scoring defense allowing 14.1. In these types of high-profile matchups, I tend to favor the defenses, especially with extra time to prepare. That being said, James Franklin has had trouble slowing down big-time scoring offenses in previous New Year’s Six games, most notably allowing 52 points to USC in the 2016 Rose Bowl. Regardless, I like Penn State to control the tempo in this matchup. I don’t love the line movement towards Memphis as that does indicate some sharp money on the Tigers. Because of that, I won’t be making this a big play, but I do think Penn State wins the game, so maybe it makes sense to swallow the juice and take the moneyline.

PICK: Penn State -7

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Follow Jared Smith on Twitter: @jaredleesmith

Memphis and Penn State will meet in the Cotton Bowl as we break down the betting odds and offer a prediction on the game