Boston College v. Penn State
Yankee Stadium — New York, NY
December 27, 2014 — 4:30 pm Eastern (ESPN)
Why You Should Watch
There was once a time when football games were a mainstay at the old Yankee Stadium, including the short-lived Gotham Bowl in the early 1960s. This bowl game recaptures the spirit of yesteryear, when college football was hardly an afterthought in the nation’s media capital. It isn’t exactly an Army-Notre Dame duel with national implications, but this game features two teams that used to be high-profile eastern independents. Conference affiliation has kept them from playing each other annually anymore, with a decade separating this bowl game from the most recent matchup between the two contestants. So watch for a classic matchup in a classic venue as you continue your last full Saturday of football for 2014.
What Each Team Brings to the Table
Boston College won in 2014 with an old-school formula, relying on defense and a punishing ground game led by quarterback Tyler Murphy and tailback Jon Hilliman. The formula worked wonders against USC and Virginia Tech, nearly led to upsets over Clemson and Florida State, and yielded seven wins for the second straight season. The Eagles averaged over 250 rushing yards per game. The offshoot of that is the fact that Murphy averaged only 132 passing yards per game, and the offense generated fewer than 26 points per contest. The defense kept the team in games, allowing less than three touchdowns to opponents on average and ranking right between Alabama and Ole Miss at 12th nationally in yards allowed per game. If they stick to the script and can control the time of possession against a Penn State team with its own strong defense, Boston College could pull off another non-conference upset.
The Nittany Lions were granted an end to their bowl ban in September, which looked like it could be quite significant as Penn State entered the last weekend of the month 4-0. Then a 29-6 home loss to Northwestern sparked a four-game losing streak, and merely being able to reach bowl eligibility became a question. Penn State managed to get a sixth win against Temple in mid-November… and ten proceeded to lose its last two regular-season games to back into their bowl berth. Bob Shoop’s defense is among the elite units in the country, ranking second in yards allowed and seventh in points allowed. The offense was the team’s Achilles heel that prevented it from reaping greater success. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg regressed not just from his 2013 form but also through the course of 2014, getting worse with each game until James Franklin was willing to call just 16 passes for his beleaguered gunslinger in the penultimate loss to Illinois.
What is Likely to Happen
This game is tailored to be a defensive battle between two classic eastern powers. The key thus comes down to which team is better designed to break through the Sisyphean task of seeking out the endzone against a tough opponent. Penn State only scored 30 or more points twice this season, while Boston College managed the feat five times. The Eagles don’t field a great offense, but they’ll field one that is at least competent in generating points. Hackenberg continues his devolution against BC defense designed to force him to throw the ball, while Tyler Murphy does just enough with his arm and his legs to crack the Nittany Lions defense. It won’t be pretty, but a late score will allow the Eagles to prevail in the Bronx.
Boston College 17, Penn State 13