Posted on: January 2, 2012 7:40 am
Posted by Adam Jacobi
A look at the matchup that could determine the TicketCity Bowl
Penn State's RBs, led by Silas Redd, vs. Houston's LBs, led by Marcus McGraw
Penn State's starting quarterback for the TicketCity Bowl is Rob Bolden, which is to say Penn State's passing game will be in a world of hurt. As such, there's no question that interim head coach Tom Bradley is going to have to get the most out of his rushing attack if Penn State's going to be able to dictate any aspect of the game.
Sophomore Silas Redd, who has rushed for 99 yards per game in 2011, is Penn State's unquestioned workhorse at tailback, but the Nittany Lions can go four deep at tailback without much dropoff. Speedy senior Stephfon Green has had the biggest workload in relief of Redd, but sophomore Curtis Dukes and senior Brandon Beachum have combined for 75 carries and 371 yards of their own on the year. In addition, fullbacks Michael Zordich and Joe Suhey have been been effective in short-yardage situations, though PSU has been so bad on offense all year that neither fullback has more than 15 catches on the year.
Unfortunately for the Cougars, rush defense has been the biggest point of concern all year, and it's not hard to see why. In Southern Miss' season-ending 49-26 win over Houston, the Golden Eagles rushed for 207 yards... and of the five times Houston gave up at least 34 pounts, USM's rushing total was the lowest allowed by the Cougars. Altogether, in those five games, Houston gave up over 260 yards per game on the ground, which dwarfs the 170+ Houston gives up on the whole. LB Marcus McGraw is a tackling machine, ranking in the Top 20 nationally, but good defenses get that way because of group effort, not just superstars, and Houston's going to need a big day from its defensive unit as a whole.