By Sarah Manning
Wisconsin aced out Penn State for a Rose Bowl bid so the Nits are settling for the Cotton Bowl on Dec. 28 against Memphis.
Penn State (10-2) hasn’t played since 1975. This also will mark Penn State’s first appearance at AT&T Stadium.
The Cotton Bowl is scheduled for a noon kickoff Dec. 28 on ESPN as the lead-in to the day’s College Football Playoff games. It will be Penn State’s third New Year’s 6 bowl appearance in four years and first against the Group of 5 representative.
“New Year’s 6 bowl games are very, very difficult to get,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “To be able to play a program like Memphis, we couldn’t be more excited.
“… I have never been to the Cotton Bowl before. I’m looking forward to that opportunity. I’m looking forward to being in Dallas. I’m looking forward to being in Jerry’s World. I’m looking forward to it all.”
Memphis (12-1) rallied to defeat Cincinnati 29-24 for the American Athletic Conference championship Saturday. Yesterday, coach Mike Norvell was announced as Florida State’s head coach.
Ryan Silverfield, Memphis’ deputy head coach and co-offensive coordinator, will serve as interim head coach for the Cotton Bowl. It’s a familiar scenario for Penn State.
For Penn State, the Rose Bowl wasn’t meant to be. The CFP committee held Wisconsin at No. 8 in the final rankings after its 34-21 loss to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game.
Wisconsin (11-3) moved ahead of Penn State in last week’s rankings and “deserved to stay ahead” of Penn State after the loss, CFP chair Rob Mullens said.
Penn State narrowly received the Cotton Bowl bid over Utah, which lost to 37-15 to Oregon in the Pac-12 championship game. After that, Utah fell six spots to No. 11, one behind Penn State.
“In the end here, when Utah had an opportunity to play against a ranked team, a team that was ranked lower than them, unfortunately they lost, which kind of was a separator for them,” Mullens said. “When you compare that to Penn State, who beat a No. 14 Michigan, won at a No. 16 Iowa and had a quality non-conference win against a Pitt, that ended up being the separator for those two teams.”
Penn State is playing in its fourth Cotton Bowl. The Lions are 2-0-1 in the game, defeating Texas and Baylor in the 1970s and tying SMU 13-13 in 1948.
Memphis ran one of the nation’s highest-scoring offenses, ranking eighth at 40.5 points per game. Quarterback Brady White threw for 3,560 yards and 33 touchdowns.
The Tigers’ lone loss came in Philly — Temple defeated Memphis 30-28 in October at Lincoln Financial Field, benefiting from four Memphis turnovers.
Former Lehigh coach Pete Lembo is a familiar face on the Memphis staff. Lembo, who was Lehigh’s head coach for five seasons, is Memphis’ assistant head coach and special teams coordinator.