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