Penn State vs. Washington: Fiesta Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Penn State vs. Washington: Fiesta Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Big Ten

Penn State vs. Washington: Fiesta Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the Fiesta Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.

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Fiesta Bowl
Penn State (10-2) vs. Washington (10-2)


Date: Saturday, December 30th
Game Time: 4:00 pm
Venue: University of Phoenix Stadium, Glendale, AZ
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
7 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Fiesta Bowl

It’s what the Rose Bowl would’ve been last year if Washington hadn’t bothered being in that whole College Football Playoff thing. These two were painfully close to being CFP bound – with Washington losing close calls to Arizona State and Stanford on the road, and Penn State suffering heartache against Ohio State and Michigan State by a total of four points – but the winner will have something nice to use as a key moment of the season.

These two former superpowers rose back up to greatness under their current head coaches, and now they’re both killers in their respective conferences. After losing the Rose Bowl to USC last season, James Franklin and the Nittany Lions have to show they can win a bowl game like this, while Chris Petersen and the Huskies – after last year’s debacle in the CFP against Alabama – need to show they can beat someone really, really good.

The two plucky quarterbacks will have their day. Washington’s Jake Browning isn’t having the season he cranked up in 2016, but he’s still been among the nation’s most efficient and effective quarterbacks. It’s hard to get any quarterback love in a league with Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Khalil Tate and Luke Falk, but he was excellent, hitting 69% of his passes with 18 touchdown passes and rushing for six scores.

Penn State’s Trace McSorley also has a hype problem – it’s tough when Saquon Barkley is being Saquon Barkley – but he was brilliant at times, throwing for 3,228 yards and 26 touchdowns and running for 11 scores.

With so many quarterback stars leaving for the NFL, these two will be front and center in next year’s Heisman chase.

It can’t be any worse than last year. The Fiesta Bowl has been hit or miss over the last several seasons, but the Clemson 31-0 win over Ohio State in the College Football Playoff was an all-time clunker of a big game. Six of the last ten have been close, fun battles. With these two evenly-matched teams, it should be terrific. But that’s what everyone said going into last year’s showdown. 

Here’s Why Penn State Will Win The Fiesta Bowl

The Nittany Lions just don’t give the ball away. They’re fantastic in turnover margin at a +14 on the year, mostly because they don’t make mistakes. There were two giveaways in the close call against Iowa, three in the loss to Michigan State, and that was about it. The offense spread out five turnovers in the other ten games. This isn’t a conservative offense by any means – it just doesn’t screw up.

Saquon Barkley really is that special. Remember him? The Heisman was his after the brilliant performance against Iowa, but he failed to do enough running the ball, and Baker Mayfield became Baker Mayfield. Even so, he finished with 1,134 yards, 16 touchdowns, 594 receiving yards and three scores, and second in the nation behind SDSU’s Rashaad Penny in all-purpose yards. And now he’s rested.

The Nittany Lion pass rush will bring the heatWashington is strong in pass protection, but the Penn State pass rush is special. It never let up, finishing with 38 sacks on the season with nine of them in the final two games. Give Browning time, and forget about it – he’ll pick apart any secondary. He probably won’t get it.

Here’s Why Washington Will Win The Fiesta Bowl

– The Huskies just don’t give the ball away. Just like Penn State, Washington doesn’t mess up. It’s +11 on the year in turnover margin, and just like the Nittany Lions, it gave away just ten turnovers on the year. There were two giveaways in the win over Fresno State, and two against UCLA. The other six were spread out over the other ten games, with none in the final two against Utah and Washington State.

Dante Pettis really is that special. Penn State’s punt coverage team is solid. Even so, the Nittany Lions can’t let him get the ball in his hands. One of the greatest punt returners in college football history, he averaged over 20 yards per pop with four touchdowns – and he can catch a little bit, too. He’s not quite as explosive as a receiver, but he not far off, making 62 grabs for 721 yards and seven scores.

The UW pass rush will bring the heatBy just a little bit, it’s even better than it was last year, and it comes from everywhere – there isn’t just one guy Penn State’s blocking scheme can key on. The Huskies got to Luke Falk five times in the win over Washington State to finish with 38 sacks on the season.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Fiesta Bowl

In terms of jockeying for draft position, yeah, this matters for Barkley. He’s a top ten pick, and he’s even good enough to get into the discussion for a top three overall selection – assuming he wants to come out early. However, you know how this works – even the most hardened of NFL scouts and general managers fall in love with a massive bowl performance. If he rips up the nation’s No. 1 defense, he might just be a Cleveland Brown.

In a way, Penn State winning this might really, really hurt. Of course the Nittany Lions want to win this, and of course it would be amazing to come up with an 11-win season. But if they look great and dominant, it could further cement the idea that this really was one of the nation’s four best teams and good enough to have made an interesting run in the College Football Playoff.

That’ll make the last-moment 39-38 loss to Ohio State tougher, and the 27-24 loss to Michigan State that much more painful. This was an amazing team, but winning the Fiesta might feel a wee bit empty.

Washington could use a good win over a great team. The Huskies beat Fresno State, and getting by Washington State, Utah, UCLA and Oregon was excellent, but there isn’t any one win on the slate that was amazing. This goes for last year, too. Beat Penn State in the Fiesta, and all of a sudden, this great spike under Chris Petersen will seem a bit more real. It would give the program a bit more street cred.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Fiesta Bowl?

Both teams are so good, so talented, so well-coached, and so even. The difference? Penn State will be just a bit more explosive.

Washington might have had a month to prepare for Barkley, but McSorley can win this game for the Nittany Lions, too.

This should be a terrific game that goes down to the wire in a battle that will feel like a heavyweight fight, but in the end, Penn State will have Barkley. Washington won’t.

Final Score

Penn State 34, Washington 31
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets


Penn State -2, o/u: 55

ATS Confidence: 2.5
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 5
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Fiesta Bowl History, Results

Dec. 31, 2016 Clemson 31, Ohio State 0
Dec. 31, 2014 Boise State 38 Arizona 30
Jan. 3, 2013 Oregon 35 Kansas State 17
Jan. 2, 2012 Oklahoma State 41 Stanford 38 (OT)
Jan. 1, 2011 Oklahoma 48 Connecticut 20
Jan. 4, 2010 Boise State 17 TCU 10
Jan. 5, 2009 Texas 24 Ohio State 21
Jan. 2, 2008 West Virginia 48 Oklahoma 28
Jan. 1, 2007 Boise State 43 Oklahoma 42 (OT)
Jan. 2, 2006 Ohio State 34 Notre Dame 20
Jan. 1, 2005 Utah 35 Pittsburgh 7
Jan. 2, 2004 Ohio State 35 Kansas State 28
Jan. 3, 2003 Ohio State 31 Miami 24
Jan. 1, 2002 Oregon 38 Colorado 16
Jan. 1, 2001 Oregon State 41 Notre Dame 9
Jan. 2, 2000 Nebraska 31 Tennessee 21
Jan. 4, 1999 Tennessee 23 Florida State 16
Dec. 31, 1997 Kansas State 35 Syracuse 18
Jan. 1, 1997 Penn State 38 Texas 15
Jan. 2, 1996 Nebraska 62 Florida 24
Jan. 2, 1995 Colorado 41 Notre Dame 24
Jan. 1, 1994 Arizona 29 Miami 0
Jan. 1, 1993 Syracuse 26 Colorado 22
Jan. 1, 1992 Penn State 42 Tennessee 17
Jan. 1, 1991 Louisville 24 Alabama 7
Jan. 1, 1990 Florida State 41 Nebraska 17
Jan. 2, 1989 Notre Dame 34 West Virginia 21
Jan. 1, 1988 Florida State 31 Nebraska 28
Jan. 2, 1987 Penn State 14 Miami 10
Jan. 1, 1986 Michigan 27 Nebraska 23
Jan. 1, 1985 UCLA 39 Miami 37
Jan. 2, 1984 Ohio State 28 Pittsburgh 23
Jan. 1, 1983 Arizona State 32 Oklahoma 21
Jan. 1, 1982 Penn State 26 USC 10
Dec. 26, 1980 Penn State 31 Ohio State 19
Dec. 25, 1979 Pittsburgh 16 Arizona 10
Dec. 25, 1978 Arkansas 10 UCLA 10
Dec. 25, 1977 Penn State 42 Arizona State 30
Dec. 25, 1976 Oklahoma 41 Wyoming 7
Dec. 26, 1975 Arizona State 17 Nebraska 14
Dec. 28, 1974 Oklahoma State 16 BYU 6
Dec. 21, 1973 Arizona State 28 Pittsburgh 7
Dec. 23, 1972 Arizona State 49 Missouri 35
Dec. 27, 1971 Arizona State 45 Florida State 38


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