The Fiesta Bowl takes place Saturday (1 p.m. PST, ESPN), pitting the 12th-ranked University of Washington Huskies against the No. 9 Penn State University Nittany Lions at University of Phoenix Stadium in Glendale, Arizona. It is Washington’s first appearance in the Fiesta Bowl.
This game is a difficult one to handicap. It’s just the third meeting ever between the two schools, with the last one coming way back in the 1983 Aloha Bowl — Penn State won each of the previous two meetings, winning 13-10 in that Aloha Bowl and 21-7 in 1921. Both teams came into this season with College Football Playoff hopes, but suffered two losses along the way to drop out of contention. The teams had one common opponent in Rutgers, but played the Scarlet Knights at opposite ends of the season, with the Huskies winning 30-14 on the road in their season opener on Sept. 1, while the Nittany Lions prevailed 35-6 at home on Nov. 11.
The teams have similar profiles, with versatile high-powered offenses backed by strong defenses that are particularly adept at stopping the run.
Penn State is led by All-American running back Saquon Barkley, who is a threat as both a runner (199 carries, 1,134 yards, 16 touchdowns) and a receiver (47 catches, 594 yards, three TDs), as well as quarterback Trace McSorley (252-for-386, 3,228 yards, 26 touchdowns, eight interceptions), who gives the Nittany Lions a vertical threat.
Washington counters with Lynnwood native Myles Gaskin at running back (208 carries, 1,282 yards, 19 touchdowns) and Jake Browning (212-for-308, 2,544 yards, 18 touchdowns, five interceptions) at quarterback. The Huskies are also expecting to get top receiver Dante Pettis (62 catches, 721 yards, seven touchdowns) back from the leg injury he suffered in the Apple Cup, while tight end Hunter Bryant might be back from his leg injury as well.
As of Tuesday the oddsmakers had Penn State as a two-point favorite, though that was down from 4.5 points at the opening.
So what do you think? Who wins Saturday’s Fiesta Bowl?