Fiesta Bowl preview: Huskies have bite

Welcome to the Fiesta Bowl portion of the Action Network’s 2017-18 College Football Bowl Preview. Make sure you subscribe to our Degen and Juice podcast for even more in-depth weekly bowl previews.

This preview integrates a combination of point spreads, advanced statistics, motivational angles and coaching changes. You can follow all of my plays for free on the SportsAction App through the [App Store] or [Google Play].

All lines taken from Pinnacle as of Dec. 27th

PlayStation Fiesta Bowl

Teams: Washington vs. Penn State
Location: Glendale, Ariz.
Date: December 30th, 4:00 PM EST

Current CW S&P+ Total
Washington +2 Penn State -1 pk 55

Notes: Only four points kept Penn State from being undefeated in 2017: a one-point loss to Ohio State and a field goal defeat to Michigan State. Per ESPN at the time of writing, Penn State faced a schedule with the 13th ranked strength of record, which helped them stay in the College Football Playoff discussion. After a strong regular season, Nittany Lion offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead accepted the head coaching job at Mississippi State. Quarterback coach Ricky Rahne was promoted to fill the position previously held by Moorhead. As far as the on-field matchups, none will be as exciting as the battle between Penn State running back Saquon Barkley and Washington defensive tackle Vita Vea.

Even though the Huskies did not play as tough a schedule thanks to the Pac-12 having a “down” season, Washington still racked up impressive advanced stats. Thanks to Vea, the Huskies rank 11th in total sacks, while Penn State is tied for 85th in average sacks allowed per game. In other words, this could be a long day for Penn State QB Trace McSorley.

A few factors indicate the under merits attention. Washington ranks sixth in the nation in points allowed per game (14.5), while Penn State ranks seventh in the nation in points allowed per game (15.5). If the defenses need an assist to get the total under, these field goal units leave plenty to be desired. Both the Huskies and Nittany Lions have had issues kicking, with field goal value ranks of 113th for Washington and 122nd for Penn State.

As for the side, my power numbers and S&P+ agree that either team getting 3 points will have value. The line should fluctuate under 3 on both sides, leaving a live play as an option for the side. We will go with Washington, as they should possess the better defense. The Huskies’ defensive line ranks sixth in adjusted sack rate, and Washington’s linebackers rank third in havoc rate. This should be enough to slow the McSorley and Barkley tandem that left the 2016 Rose Bowl on fire.

Useless Trends

  • Penn State is 16-4-1 ATS in its past 21 games
  • Penn State is 19-3 straight up in its past 22 games

The Pick: Washington +2.5

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