WHO: No. 9 Penn State (10-2) vs. No. 11 Washington (10-2)
WHAT: The 47th PlayStation Fiesta Bowl
WHEN: 4:00 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, Arizona
THE SKINNY: A year after a debate was waged on which of these two should be included in the College Football Playoff, Washington and Penn State meet in the PlayStation Fiesta Bowl. This one could be one of the more entertaining games we see this bowl season with plenty of good talent to go around on both sides of the field. After both teams ended their postseason last season with a loss, both Penn State and Washington are looking to make up for it this year.
The running back duo is terrific with Penn State’s Saquon Barkley capable of a highlight any time he touches the ball, if his offensive line gives him room to work. Barkley is going up against a stingy Washington defense so there may not be much room to work for much of the night. This is expected to be the final game of Barkley’s career before heading off to the NFL, where he is likely to be a top 10 pick in the 2018 NFL Draft. The stats may not tell the full story of just how dangerous Barkley can be, but he can be a factor running the ball, catching the ball, and returning kicks. Barkley has two kickoff return touchdowns this season and he was named the winner of the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most dynamic player.
Penn State will have their hands busy trying to contain Myles Gaskin of Washington, one of the top offensive players the Pac-12 has to offer. The quarterback comparison is a good one too with Penn State’s Trace McSorley a spunky dual-threat and Washington’s Jake Browning a more traditional dropback passer.
Both offenses will be led by new coordinators on the sidelines after the previous coordinators left to take head coach jobs elsewhere this offseason. While Penn State’s James Franklin is looking for his first major bowl victory after not being able to finish off the Rose Bowl a year ago, Washington’s Chris Petersen is looking for his third Fiesta Bowl victory. This should be a good one, but Penn State may have just enough big plays in them to keep the school’s perfect Fiesta Bowl record unblemished.
THE PICK: Penn State 30, Washington 26
This college football season has been a bit different from most thanks to a combination of two factors that have very little to do with the play on the field: a new rule allowing players to redshirt despite playing in four games and the NCAA transfer portal.
Amid a flurry of player movement as a result of those two, on top of unique situations like Houston’s D’Eriq King deciding to take a redshirt in what amounts to a lost year for the Cougars, it seems the powers at be are already eyeing tweaking the current status quo. West Virgnia AD Shane Lyons chairs the NCAA Division I Football Oversight Committee and remarked on a local radio show that adjustments to the current set of rules are likely to be discussed during meetings at the NCAA convention in January.
“I don’t think it’s a good optic for college sports,” Lyons said, according to the West Virginia MetroNews. “The way it looks, a student-athlete is potentially quitting on his team.
“It’s something the committee will look at in their January meeting to make any adjustments as necessary.”
Despite the redshirt rule originating from coaches themselves, in practice it has proven to be problematic for many because players have either removed themselves from action in order to save up a season and play elsewhere or simply entered the transfer portal. Such roster management concerns have led to plenty of criticism about the unintended consequences of the changes and now it appears the adults in the room are getting together to come up with a few changes to defeat the reasoning behind both rules.
We’ll see what happens between now and the January meetings but the days of going four-and-out for some might be coming to an end with the 2019 season.
At least based on the sportsbooks, you shouldn’t expect much drama on championship weekend — which means we should all brace for absolute and utter hell breaking loose, of course.
Friday night and on into Saturday, the 10 FBS conferences will hold their respective league championship games, the results of which will not only shape the College Football Playoff but the New Year’s Six Bowls and all the way down to the lower-tier bowls. As of this posting, and by way of the BetMGM Sportsbook, nearly half of those 10 title games feature double-digit odds:
- ACC — No. 23 Virginia vs. No. 3 Clemson (-28½)
- Big Ten — No. 1 Ohio State (-15½) vs. No. 8 Wisconsin
- Mountain West — Hawaii vs. No. 19 Boise State (-13½)
- AAC — No. 20 Cincinnati vs. No. 17 Memphis (-10½)
A fifth, the Big 12 championship game, is nearly double-digits as No. 6 Oklahoma is a 9½-point favorite over No. 7 Baylor.
The other five matchups have hovered around seven points or so, including the SEC title game featuring 6½-point favorite and second-ranked LSU clashing with No. 4 Georgia, since the matchups were decided last weekend:
- Pac-12 (Friday night) — No. 5 Utah (-6½) vs. No. 13 Oregon
- Sun Belt — Louisiana vs. No. 21 Appalachian State (-6½)
- MAC — Miami (OH) vs. Central Michigan (-6½)
- Conference USA — UAB vs. Florida Atlantic (-7½)
Some history was made overnight that involves both sides of The Game.
Wednesday night, sixth-ranked Ohio State took seventh-ranked North Carolina to the woodshed in a 74-49 win, handing the Tar Heels the basketball program’s worst-ever home loss at the Dean Dome under Roy Williams. Four days earlier, second-ranked Ohio State took 10th-ranked Michigan to the woodshed in a 56-27 win, handing the Wolverines their eighth straight loss — and 15th in 16 meetings — in the rivalry.
According to ESPN Stats & Info, this marks the first time in nearly three decades and just the second time ever that one school had scored wins in Associated Press Top-10 matchups in football and basketball in a span of four days or fewer. The only other school to pull off that feat? Michigan, in 1992-93.
I have no clue what it actually all means, but it sounds pretty impressive. And fairly hilarious that it involves both sides of the greatest rivalry in all of sports.
Ahead of Saturday’s Big 12 championship game, the status of a key rotational piece of one of the participant’s defensive line is decidedly up in the air.
Jalen Redmond didn’t travel with the rest of his No. 6 Oklahoma teammates to last Saturday’s Bedlam win over No. 25 Oklahoma State because of an unspecified issue. With a date against Baylor on tap for Saturday, it remains unclear whether the redshirt freshman defensive lineman will be available for the conference title game.
“He has progressed this week,” Sooners head coach Lincoln Riley said when asked about Redmond’s availability. “We don’t have a complete decision right now, but he’s certainly better at this point than he was last week.”
In July of last year, Riley confirmed that, because of blood clots, Redmond would not play at all in 2018. However, the then-true freshman defied the initial medical odds and ultimately returned in October to play in three games before a recurrence of the clots in mid-November sidelined Redmond for the remainder of the year.
This season, Redmond had played in the first 11 games, starting two of those contests, before missing the Week 14 win. Redmond is currently third on the Sooners in tackles for loss with seven and second in sacks with four.