Second Half To Be Decisive for Huskies against PSU In Fiesta Bowl

fiesta bowl

Rainman M.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017 4:24 PM GMT

Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017 4:24 PM GMT

No. 11 Washington (10-2) plays No. 9 Penn State (10-2) on Saturday, December 30th, at 4 PM ET in the Fiesta Bowl. Penn State opened as 3-point favorites, but are now favored by only 2 points, despite strong support from the betting public.

Washington Huskies vs Penn State Nittany Lions

[/]{"component":"oddswidget", "eventId":3375267, "sportsbooksIds":[169,93,180,19,1275], "LineTypeId":1, "PeriodTypeId":1}[/]

Free NCAAF Pick: Washington +2
Best Line Offered: at Heritage

PSU’s pass defense flounders, even against less-talented receivers, when they struggle to pressure the quarterback. They bullied low-ranked offensive lines like Northwestern and Michigan. But against Ohio State, for instance, when they managed 2 sacks and 1 QB hurry in 56 tries, the opposing quarterback went 33/39 328 yards 4 touchdowns and 0 interceptions. Defensive end Ryan Buchholz will play in the Fiesta Bowl. But even while he was healthy, PSU allowed opposing quarterbacks like Iowa’s Nathan Stanley to have one of their best games when struggling to apply pressure.

Pass protection is the strength of UW’s o-line. UW allowed an average of 1.7 sacks and 0 QB hurries in their last 3 games, including against Washington State, which ranks 8th in sack %. The key for Washington’s pass blocking will be to avoid obvious passing situations: they rank 10th in standard down sack rate allowed, but 96th in passing down sack rate allowed.

Running back Myles Gaskin will be important for UW’s pass blocking by helping to avoid obvious passing situations. Gaskin averages over 6 yards per carry on 1st- and 2nd- and long. He averages 1.4 YPC more in the second half. UW, like Gaskin, is more dangerous in the second half. UW ranks 36th in first-half points, but 13th in second-half points.

The top-20 ranking of Penn State’s run defense is deceiving. PSU’s defensive line ranks 69th in short-yardage situations and 39th in stopping opposing runners at the line of scrimmage. But these numbers are inflated. PSU only faced 1 team in the top 80 in terms of YPC, Ohio State.

Penn State lacks reliable backup linebackers—the suspension of Manny Bowen doesn’t help. So their starters are apt to lose endurance. Ohio State’s 201 rush yards on 5.2 YPC against Penn State exposed the weakness of Penn State’s defensive line and PSU's vulnerability to attrition and misdirection play-calling (a proclivity of UW’s offense).

UW will boast a balanced offense led by Gaskin and Jake Browning, whose accuracy and efficiency (68.9% completion, 18-to-5 touchdown-to-interception ratio) supersede what PSU’s defense has seen.

The Huskies' run defense ranks 5th vs ranked teams, 11th vs winning FBS teams. They held their toughest opponent, Stanford (4th in YPC), to 1.6 YPC below their season average, despite Stanford’s massive time of possession. Nose tackle Vita Vea excels at occupying multiple blockers so that his teammates can swarm the ballcarrier. Ryan Bates should play, but is listed at backup right tackle. PSU’s offensive line is atrocious. Their o-line ranks 89th in short-yardage situations and 105th in stuff rate, meaning that their running backs frequently get met at or behind the line of scrimmage.

Whereas Browning proved himself against Utah’s 27th-ranked pass defense, in terms of opposing QB rating, PSU’s Trace McSorley's only 300 yard passing games came against Michigan State, which ranks 85th vs FBS winning teams, Nebraska, which ranks 94th, and Indiana, which ranks 58th in opposing passer rating. PSU’s pass protection is weak, especially on passing downs. Even though McSorley’s receiving corps has a size advantage, PSU’s bigger players will take too much time to get downfield and won’t help PSU sustain drives.

Barkley could be utilized creatively. But their offensive coordinator departed. Ricky Rahne will be calling plays for the first time since since PSU’s 2015 bowl game.


The Verdict

PSU Coach James Franklin is winless at Penn State away from home against ranked opponents. UW will prolong that streak on our NCAAF Picks behind its more balanced offense and defense.

comment here