PARADISE VALLEY, Ariz.-- In case you forgot, at the end of bowl week there is in fact a game of football to be played. At 2 PM MST Penn State and Washington will take the field at the Fiesta Bowl as both teams looks to put a bow on a successful 2017 season.
So what is there to know about the Huskies? A lot, a dynamic offense and a defense as good (if not better) than any Penn State has seen all year is a big part of why Washington was once a playoff favorite prior to a midseason loss.
Here are the sparknotes.
Like Penn State, the Huskies go as their quarterback goes and Jake Browning is having himself a year. With 2,544 yards passing and nearly a 69% completions rate, Browning is a threat to move around in the pocket too with six rushing touchdowns. More impressive he has only thrown five interceptions all year to his 18 touchdowns. Simply put he's getting the job done.
Myles Gaskin is the dynamic runner that has racked up 1,282 yards on the ground and 19 touchdowns this season. Lavon Coleman will get his fair share of carries as well with 85 touches so far this season. Dante Pettis rounds out the balanced attack at receiver and with 62 catches and 721 yards to go with 7 touchdowns, he's as consistent as they come in college football.
All told the Huskies have someone at every position that can beat you, and for most of the year they have done just that averaging 36.9 points a game in the process.
The best rush defense in the nation starts with massive defensive tackle and potential first-rounder Vita Vae. The Huskies boast a trio of solid linebackers and coverage players that turns Washington's defense into the fifth best scoring defense in the nation giving up 14.5 points a game.
This defense is really like every Big Ten unit the Nittany Lions have seen in terms of talent and depth. That's good and bad news for Penn State, but if nothing else the idea of playing against one of the best defenses in the country won't be a new challenge this late in the year.
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If Saquon Barkley's going-away-party is going to be a success then that means Penn State figures out who to slow down Vae. Since that's something hardly anyone has been able to do this game will come down to the Nittany Lions' ability to get to Browning. Penn State can win a low scoring game, but if the offense is struggling and Washington is able to move the ball through the air with relative ease that might spell trouble.
Penn State has struggled all year to look like Penn State against better defensive units. Maybe Ricky Rahne has some wrinkles and a new look at things than Joe Moorhead, but the Nittany Lions are unlikely to have fixed all their issues in a few weeks. Penn State wants this game to be a shootout because that means the offense is moving the ball. That doesn't seem likely though given these two defenses which means Washington has the edge as it slows down Barkley. But this team has made its name defying people, so nothing is surprising at this point.