The 2012 bowl season is here and the Nittany Lions will be going to Dallas to face The Houston Cougars (12-1) in the TicketCity Bowl. Yes, Penn State fans, the Nittany Lions have literally punched their ticket to the TicketCity Bowl. I don't know if it's neccessarily the show that the 9-3 Lions wanted to attend, but it seems the bowl reps had already given out all the good seats to the "cool" shows.
The bowl situation for Penn State is just another disappointment in the timeline of tragic events for the blue and white this season. Things for Penn State right now are simply in a purgatory stage.
The starting quarterback Matt McGloin is most likely out against Houston (who cares?) after getting into a fight with wideout Curtis Drake and receiving a concussion in the process.
There is no sign of hiring a head coach anytime soon and it seems nobody has emerged as a front runner, which is worrisome to say the least because of the dismal recruiting situation at the current time.
Speaking of the recruiting situation, once considered a top PSU prospect, ESPNU 150 blue chipper defensive end Noah Spence from Bishop McDevitt in Harrisburg decided to head to Ohio State with Urban Meyer. Stand-out defensive tackle Tommy Schutt from the state of Illinois decommitted from the Nittany Lions and is now headed to Ohio State; and four-star offensive lineman J.J. Denman decommitted to head to Wisconsin. Meyer hasn't even been with Ohio State for more than two months and already has stole two of Penn State's top recruits. Ohio State dipping into the Penn State recruiting pool is a definite sign of things to come so Nittany Lion faithfuls should probably get used to it.
The Big Ten Conference actually has a good set up as far as bowl games go. Bowl eligible Big Ten teams get invited to good bowl games in great weather towns and as far as Penn State is concerned they usually are a lock for a good game against a good opponent. Especially, if they're 9-3 and tied for the Division lead.
However, that is not the case this season with the Sandusky melee that has ensued over the last couple months. Not getting a deserving bowl game is one of the many ways Sandusky has hurt Penn State, but probably isn't the worst way in the grand scheme of things. Don't get me wrong though, it should still seriously bug Penn State fans that they're playing in Dallas and not Florida this season.
The Big Ten breakdown looks like this: The Big Ten Championship game winner gets an automatic bid to a BCS game, which usually means they're headed to the Rose Bowl. The only way that team doesn't head to the Rose Bowl is if they go to the National Championship game. Wisconsin is headed to the Rose Bowl and Michigan to the Sugar, both of which I don't have a problem with.
Usually, the Big Ten gets two teams in the BCS slate of games and in order to do so they must be ranked in the top 14 in the BCS standings.
Next up is the two bowl games that Penn State has lived in the past few seasons with the Capital One Bowl (Big Ten No. 2) and Outback Bowl (Big Ten No. 3). Nebraska is headed to the Capital One Bowl and Michigan State is going to the Outback Bowl. Once again no argument there considering all Penn State had to do was beat Nebraska and they would've went to the Big Ten Title game.
The Gator Bowl features Ohio State and Florida. Obviously, Penn State is better than Ohio State this season, but the Nittany Lions were matched up with Florida in the Gator Bowl last year and nobody wants to see teams play back-to-back years unless it's in a National Championship game.
Here's where things get really dicey. The Insight Bowl, which is where I figured Penn State would end up in the first place once the season concluded, is the fifth selection for the BIg Ten. The game is played in Tempe, Ariz., which happens to be a great bowl game atmosphere and is honestly where Penn State deserved to play. Instead, a 7-5 Iowa team who Penn State beat in the regular season is going to Tempe to face Oklahoma. The Hawkeyes are going to get demolished and it's really a waste of a good bowl game.
The sixth selection for the Big Ten is the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas held in Houston. Those reps chose a 6-6 Northwestern squad that finished fifth in their division. It doesn't really matter because the TicketCity Bowl and Meineke Car Care Bowl are basically the same type of bowl.
That leaves Penn State with the TicketCity Bowl on ESPNU at noon on Jan. 2. Not ESPN, ESPN2, or even ESPN Classic. For those of you without digital cable you're going to have to go to a friend's house because basic cable in the TIMES NEWS area doesn't provide ESPNU.
One good thing about this game however, is the match-up with 12-1 Houston and All-Time NCAA Division 1 passing touchdown leader Case Keenum. Keenum has had another banner year going 383-534 for 5,099 yards and 45 touchdowns. Penn State has not faced an offense like this all season and it's going to be interesting to see how they handle the Houston passing attack.
Rob Bolden will most likely get the start at quarterback with McGloin being out, so who knows what the Penn State offense is going to offer up. You'll see a lot of Silas Redd and hopefully Bill Belton and Curtis Drake running the wildcat formation to keep Houston off balance.
The 2011-2012 Penn State season is drawing to an end and it's evident that it may take a long time before people view the program with honor once again. It's going to take time and a lot of support from Penn State fans and the worst is yet to come.
All Penn Staters can do is stand proud and continue to weather the storm.