Penn State vs. Memphis Odds, Betting Pick: Spread, Line, Prediction for 2019 Cotton Bowl

Penn State vs. Memphis Odds, Betting Pick: Spread, Line, Prediction for 2019 Cotton Bowl article feature image
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Nelson Chenault, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Damonte Coxie

  • Penn State is a 7-point betting favorite over Memphis in the latest Cotton Bowl odds, though there is a -6.5 available at PointsBet as of 11:15 a.m. ET.
  • The Tigers have an elite offense, but will be without coach Mike Norvell and have to take on the best defense they've seen this season.
  • Get our experts' Penn State vs. Memphis picks and predictions for the 2019 Cotton Bowl below.

Memphis vs. Penn State Odds, Pick

  • Odds: Penn State -7
  • Over/Under: 60
  • Time: Saturday, 12 p.m. ET
  • TV: ESPN
  • Location: Arlington, Texas

Penn State vs. Memphis odds via FanDuel, where Action Network users get a risk-free bet up to $500.


The Memphis Tigers will head to the Cotton Bowl without head coach Mike Norvell, who left Graceland for Tallahassee to take over at Florida State. As much success as Norvell had, he never won a bowl game with Memphis.

To get their first bowl win since 2014, the Tigers will need to pull off an upset against Penn State and its terrific defense.

As you can imagine, the public isn’t all that thrilled at the idea of betting a Group of 5 team with a new head coach against a strong Power 5 program. As of Friday afternoon, the Nittany Lions have garnered 65% of the bets, pushing the line back up to PSU -7.

Collin Wilson: Memphis’ Offense Will Still Light It Up

Ryan Silverfield’s head coaching career will begin at the Cotton Bowl. After serving as the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator under Norvell, Silverfield was quickly installed as the permanent head coach, though it should be noted that nobody on the Memphis sideline called any offensive plays under Norvell.

No matter who is calling the shots, the Tigers have an explosive offense led by quarterback Brady White. Memphis was the fifth-most explosive passing offense in the country in 2019 and ranked 18th in passing success rate.

That could be a problem for Penn State, which struggled to defend big plays as the season progressed. Minnesota and Indiana both threw for over 300 yards against the Nittany Lions and the Gophers hit eight plays for at least 20 yards.

Penn State’s offense should also hit some big plays, especially since quarterback Sean Clifford and wide receiver KJ Hamler will be at full strength. Hamler is expected to declare for the NFL Draft after the game, but he should add to his highlight reel against a Memphis defense that ranks 75th in passing explosiveness.

The Nittany Lions have been stellar when they get into scoring range, ranking 15th in finishing drives. That should give them an edge over a Tigers’ defense that is 124th in opponent red zone scoring percentage.

Memphis could have the upper hand in the first half of the game as the offensive scheme could be a bit of a mystery. Penn State defensive coordinator Brent Pry is one of the best in college football, but may need a half to adjust.

Pick: Memphis +4 First-Half

Kyle Miller: The Best Defense Memphis Has Faced This Season

Mike Norvell didn’t just take over Justin Fuente’s Memphis program and maintain, he excelled and pushed it further up the list of top Group of 5 programs in the country. Unfortunately for the Tigers, Norvell is gone and I believe much of the season’s magic will be gone with him.

Norvell is known as an elite offensive mind and that’s shown over the last few years at Memphis. I’m worried that without him there will be a huge drop off and they’ll be forced to rely on a shaky defense in this game.

While there are still plenty of talented players on Memphis’ offense, Penn State will be by far the most talented and athletic defense they’ve faced in 2019. Penn State ranks 10th in the nation in yards per play, second and 18th in rushing and passing success rate respectively, and eighth in overall efficiency. This is one of the best defenses in the nation and I expect them to, at the very least, slow down Memphis.

Memphis will likely get pushed around a bit on both sides of the ball as both the offensive and defensive lines have some big disadvantages. Additionally, Memphis does a horrible job of taking care of the football, something an opportune Penn State defense will be able to exploit.

I make this game right around the number, but without Norvell and the emotions that go with that, it’s hard to predict how far down Memphis should be moved. With the new head coach already named and, on the staff, the bump shouldn’t be too drastic, but I still believe they’ll have a tough time keeping this one close.

Pick: Penn State -7

Stuckey: Look for Memphis Live

I actually show a bit of value on Memphis at +7 but with all of the coaching turnover mixed with the news that the Tigers will be without their starting tight end and right tackle, I’m more inclined to wait and see if I can get the Tigers at +10 or higher in-play.

This approach also aligns with something we’ve seen all year with Penn State: fast starts and slow finishes. It just seems like Sean Clifford excels in the scripted portion of the game. The Nittany Lions average 8.8 points in the first quarter, 6.8 in the second, 8.0 in the third and 6.6 in the fourth.

One thing I’ll be keeping an eye on is how effective Memphis’ running game is against a stout Penn State defense. If the Tigers can’t get the run going, they won’t have much success throwing the ball, either. Everything gets set up with the run.

There’s a good chance we get a better number on Memphis live and if not, I’m fine passing on a game with this much volatility.

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