Penn State lands in Cotton Bowl

Nittany Lions headed to Cotton Bowl; Wisconsin picked for Pasadena

Things did not turn out rosy for Penn State on Sunday, as the Nittany Lions were not selected for the Rose Bowl, as most fans hoped for and expected.

Penn State did, however, land a coveted New Year’s Six bowl game for the third time in four years.

The Lions are headed for the Cotton Bowl in Dallas to play Memphis on Dec. 28 at noon. It will be the first meeting between the schools and PSU’s fourth appearance in the Cotton Bowl (its first since 1975).

Wisconsin landed the Big Ten’s Rose Bowl bid and will play Oregon.

Penn State coach James Franklin discussed how excited he is to be going to a prestigious bowl game, even if it’s not “The Granddaddy of Them All” in the Rose Bowl.

“We’re excited about the Cotton Bowl,” Franklin said on a conference call Sunday evening. “I think it’s an unbelievable opportunity to be in a New Year’s Six game.

“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 (AT&T Stadium). I’m looking forward to it all. I think it’s going to be a tremendous opportunity for our fans, not only in Dallas and Texas specifically, but also across the country. It’s going to be fantastic.”

Penn State fans expressed a great deal of frustration on social media about getting bypassed for the Rose Bowl. The Lions are 10-2 with losses at Ohio State and at Minnesota, while Wisconsin has one more loss at 10-3.

The Badgers suffered a bad loss to Illinois, which is 6-6, but did win at Minnesota. They also lost twice to Ohio State, including Saturday night in the Big Ten championship game.

Franklin was asked what he would tell fans who may be disappointed about not getting a Rose Bowl bid.

“There’s always that percentage of fans that maybe they’ll have different opinions on social media and they can be vocal,” Franklin said. “But I know the majority — the great majority — of our fans couldn’t be more excited about this opportunity. And I know our team feels the same way.”

Penn State came in at No. 10 in the final College Football Playoff rankings of the regular season. Wisconsin is No. 8, despite having one more loss.

Penn State lost at Ohio State by 11 points (28-17). Wisconsin lost at Ohio State in the regular season by 31 points (38-7) and Saturday on a neutral field by 13 points (34-21) in a game it led 21-7 at the half before getting outscored 27-0 in the second half.

Rob Mullens, chairman of the CFP selection committee, had this to say when asked to compare Penn State and Wisconsin:

“Two really good teams. Both have quality wins against ranked opponents. As you’ve seen, when Wisconsin had the big win (at Minnesota), they jumped over, and I think we felt that with the way they performed in the Big Ten Conference championship, they deserved to stay ahead.”

That last part of what Mullens said was viewed by many PSU fans as peculiar given that Wisconsin still lost by 13 points on a neutral field, while Penn State gave Ohio State its closest game of the season in a true road contest.

Instead of a marquee matchup in the Rose Bowl against Pac 12 champion Oregon and its highly rated NFL draft prospect quarterback Justin Herbert, the Lions will face a less-heralded Memphis team that’s 12-1 and won the American Athletic Conference.

Memphis, appearing in its first New Year’s Six bowl game, just lost its head coach, Mike Norvell, who departed to become head coach at Florida State. The Tigers will be led in the bowl game by interim coach Ryan Silverfield.

“Coach Norvell met with the team this morning at 8 a.m.,” Silverfield said Sunday. “Obviously a lot of them had an understanding of what was occurring. We are happy for Coach Norvell and the success he brought us here, and wish him nothing but the best at Florida State, and he certainly deserves all the success that will come his way.

“We are moving forward, and we are just focused on … coaching this bowl game, and chips will fall where they may.”

Sports Writer Cory Giger is at 949-7031.


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