Off-field controversy and a crippling C-USA Championship loss bring two very different teams - one winning with defense and one setting scoring records - to the Cotton Bowl on January 2
Despite having only two conference losses, the Nittany Lions shot down the Big 10's official selection order for bowls due to their all-consuming off-field issues. Penn State was passed over by both the Gator, Insight and Meineke Car Care Bowls, all of whom took teams with weaker Big 10 conference records.
In turn, the normally lower-tier TicketCity Bowl will feature a match-up of two teams with drastically different styles of play sharing only four losses (two to BCS teams), thanks to C-USA member Houston's drop from the Sugar Bowl after a loss Saturday in the C-USA Championship, their first of the season.
Game date, time: 12:00 p.m. ET
Location: Cotton Bowl, Fair Park, Dallas, Tx.
TV channel: ESPNU
2010 winner and loser: Texas Tech def. Northwestern, 45-38
Penn State 2011 Highlights: The three-loss Nittany Lions finished tied with Wisconsin in the Big 10's Leaders Division, but lost head-to-head against the Badgers 45-7 in the final week of the regular season. Despite the unyielding turmoil off the field, Penn State was remarkably consistent, winning their first five conference games and standing as the league's only undefeated team in conference play before losing by a field goal to Nebraska November 17.
Houston 2011 Highlights: The Cougars were poised for their first-ever BCS berth before losing to Southern Miss in Saturday's C-USA Championship at home. The difference of that one game - the Cougars' only loss of the season - is over $17 million in revenue for C-USA, but Houston will still play a post-New Year's game. Houston will enter the TicketCity Bowl leading the entire nation in scoring offense, passing offense and total offense.
Match-Up History: PSU is 2-0 all-time against Houston. The Nittany Lions won a battle of two top ten teams in 1977 when No. 10 PSU beat No. 9 31-14.
What To Watch For: Case Keenum against the PSU secondary. Houston loves to score points, and Penn State loves to shut opponents' passing games down. PSU is fifth in the country in pass efficiency defense, fifth in scoring defense and tenth in overall defense. The Cougars have averaged 50.77 points through 13 games, and the 28 points scored in the loss to Southern Miss was their lowest total of the season.
For more on Penn State, visit Black Shoe Diaries. For everything Houston, check out SB Nation's Houston city page, and for all the bowl match-up information, visit SB Nation's college football news hub.