Lions Score Solid Bowl Matchup

Stop griping. The lower-tier Big Ten bowls that passed on Penn State due to the Sandusky scandal did the program a favor.

So Penn State was the eighth (out of 10) Big Ten programs picked for a bowl this year, despite finishing 9-3 overall, 6-2 in the conference and grabbing a share of the new Leaders Division title.

And three teams the Nittany Lions beat -- Iowa, Northwestern and Ohio State -- were selected ahead of them. The Hawkeyes finished 7-5; the Wildcats and Buckeyes 6-6.

This happened, of course, because three of the lower-tier bowls affiliated with the conference -- the Insight, the Gator and the Meineke -- wanted no part of a program still dealing with the fallout of the Jerry Sandusky scandal.

While fans and even PSU players (via Twitter) were griping about the snubs as the bowl scenarios were unfolding, everyone seemed to be missing a couple of important points.

First, when it came to the bowls that really mattered -- the Rose (Wisconsin), Sugar (Michigan), Cap One (Nebraska) and Outback (Michigan State) -- there was no snub at all. All four teams are ranked ahead of No. 22 PSU in the final regular-season BCS standings. And all four DESERVED to be ranked ahead of the Lions. Those teams earned their way into the high-profile bowls and would have been there even if the Sandusky scandal never happened

Second, once you get past the four major Big Ten bowl tie-ins (Rose, second BCS, Cap One and Outback), the destination is irrelevant. And money really doesn't matter, either, thanks to the conference's revenue-sharing setup. All that really matters is the opponent, the time of the game and the network carrying it.

And for Penn State this year -- given everything that has unfolded -- two out of three in that department was not bad.

The Lions face Houston in the TicketCity Bowl in Dallas Jan. 2. That's the same 12-1 Cougar outfit that features prolific quarterback Case Keenum, came within a game of qualifying for a BCS bid and leads the nation in scoring offense (50.77 ppg). Houston is actually ranked higher in the final BCS standings (19) than PSU.

The game kicks off at noon Jan. 2, college football's version of New Year's Day since Jan. 1 falls on a Sunday this year (when NFL games are played). It is the first college game of the new year, starting an hour ahead of the Cap One, Outback and Gator. It is played at the recently renovated Cotton Bowl Stadium.

The only drawback is that the game is carried on ESPNU, which is not a part of most basic cable packages.

The lower tier bowls that picked before the TicketCity all got what shape up as dog games. Iowa will be steamrolled by No. 14 (and underachieving) Oklahoma in the Insight -- staring at 10 p.m. Eastern on a Friday, no less. The other two games feature four 6-6 clubs (and two lame-duck coaches), meaning two of the teams are going to finish the year with losing records.

So there is no sense being angry about the Insight, Gator and Meineke passing on PSU. If anything, Nittany Lion fans ought to be thankful that their team “fell” into the matchup it got.

The TicketCity Bowl is one of only three non-BCS games matching ranked opponents.

As for the Penn State players, they better start worrying more about the team they are facing in the TicketCity and less about those bowls that passed on them. The Nittany Lions are 0-3 on the year against teams ranked in the final Top 25 of the BCS.

Losing to the Cougars Jan. 2 is not going to prove anyone wrong.

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