Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg has the Nittany Lions playing in their first bowl game since the Jerry Sandusky scandal.
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Anyone who knew what happened to SMU after they received the football death penalty in the 1980s had every right to be afraid of what would happen to Penn State in the aftermath of the sanctions placed on the football program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal that tarnished the school and the legacy of beloved now-deceased head coach Joe Paterno. And yet with the help of former head coach Bill O’Brien and now head coach James Franklin, the Nittany Lions never even went through the disappointment of a losing season in those several years of player transfers and bowl bans.
This Saturday will be Penn State’s first bowl game since 2011 – effectively ending the worst of the sanctions against elements of the school that had essentially nothing to do with the horrible scandal that erupted in 2011. Officially, this could be their first bowl win since 1996 (all bowl wins were vacated between 1998 and 2011), which would be a major coup for a school, fanbase and alumni group that has supported the school through thick and thin.
Penn State has a long way to go before becoming a contender in the Big Ten (as does just about every team not named Ohio State, Michigan or Michigan State), but the foundation is there for a return to consistent success that the team lost in 2011.
Here are the predictions for the December 27th College Football Bowl games:
Cincinnati over Virginia Tech in the Military Bowl – Gunner Kiel is probably one of the most underrated QBs in college football. And he’s going to make his presence known to the world with a huge game over the Hokies.
#15 Arizona State over Duke in the Sun Bowl – All eyes will be on Arizona State WR Jaelen Strong, who will in all likelihood be a 1st or 2nd round pick in 2015 NFL draft. A big game against a very good Duke team would do wonders for his stock – not to mention give fans some extremely good highlights.
Miami over South Carolina in the Independence Bowl – In an upset the ACC underdog will twist the knife in South Carolina’s miserable 2014 season to cap a season of underachievement by head coach Steve Spurrier.
Penn State over Boston College in the Pinstripe Bowl – The Penn State revival is so unprecedented that the near-fairy tale ending with a win is almost expected. And where better to make it a reality than at Yankee Stadium against a team from Boston?
#24 USC over Nebraska in the Holiday Bowl – QB Cody Kessler will likely be on Heisman watch next season, and with Oregon about to lose Marcus Mariota to the NFL, you can bet this game will be his statement game to the PAC-12.