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TicketCity Bowl Odds: Houston A Touchdown Favorite Over Penn State

A match-up of an elite spread offense against a strong Big Ten defense has been overshadowed by the ongoing scandal in Happy Valley.

The organizers of the TickeyCity Bowl, only in its second year of existence, got a big break when they were able to match up two top 25 teams in 11-1 Houston and 9-3 Penn State for the Jan. 2 game in the Cotton Bowl Stadium in Dallas.

Of course, that break happened because of the off-the-field drama at Penn State that captivated the nation and led to the ouster of legendary head coach Joe Paterno, as many more prominent bowls passed on the Nittany Lions.

They are being coached by long-time defensive coordinator Tom Bradley while their athletic department deals with the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal at the same time that it's meeting with potential candidates to replace Paterno.

However, there's been nearly as much turnover on the other side of the field, as former coach Kevin Sumlin took the job at Texas A&M after Houston's 49-28 loss to Southern Miss in the C-USA championship game which knocked the Cougars out of a likely BCS bid.

Houston decided to stay-in house with Sumlin's replacement, giving the job to 39-year old assistant Tony Levine, whose never been a D1 head coach before.

On the field, the Cougars high-flying spread attack, helmed by sixth-year senior QB Case Keenum, will be tested by Penn State's defense, which allowed only 15.7 points a game, 5th in the nation.

The game will probably be decided by each team's more maligned units, as the Nittany Lion offense, which was never able to settle on an effective starting QB, will need to control the clock and keep Keenum off the field. The Cougars defense performed decently all season against a sub-par schedule, but they collapsed in their biggest test against the Golden Eagles.

Houston, playing closer to home and with much superior weaponry, is favored by -7 points.

The 11:00 AM game will be televised nationally on ESPNU.

For more on Penn State football, head over to Black Shoe Diaries, and for the latest news and analysis on the college football bowl season, check out the college football home-page at SBNation.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.