Pinstripe Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Penn State vs. Boston College

Bob Ferrante@@bobferranteContributor IDecember 7, 2014

Pinstripe Bowl 2014: Preview, Predictions for Penn State vs. Boston College

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    James Franklin has guided Penn State back to the postseason in his first year with the Nittany Lions.
    James Franklin has guided Penn State back to the postseason in his first year with the Nittany Lions.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Penn State will play in its first bowl game since the 2011 postseason as the Nittany Lions (6-6) will face Boston College (7-5) in the Pinstripe Bowl.

    This is Penn State's first bowl game after a two-year absence due to sanctions imposed as part of the Jerry Sandusky case.

    The teams haven't played since 2004, when BC won 21-7.

    Let's take a look a the Pinstripe Bowl, which will be played on Dec. 27 at 4:30 p.m. (ESPN).

Tale of the Tape

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    Boston College makes the most of its red-zone opportunities, a sign of how efficient the Eagles are at running the ball.

    But Penn State can gain momentum with a few turnovers after forcing 21 this season.

Boston College Keys to Victory

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    Jon Hilliman has 12 rushing TDs as a freshman for BC.
    Jon Hilliman has 12 rushing TDs as a freshman for BC.Jim Rogash/Getty Images

    Run, run and run some more

    Boston College doesn't pass very much, but the Eagles are among the nation's best rushing teams. So they must run against a very good Penn State rush defense to win the bowl game.

    The Eagles average 251.8 rushing yards per game, ranking 14th in the FBS. When they win, the Eagles rack up massive rushing totals. In their seven wins, BC has outrushed opponents 2,115-284.

     

    Play the run tough, too

    BC allows just 94.8 rushing yards per game. Steven Daniels (68 tackles) and Josh Keyes (63 tackles) have been part of the reason why the Eagles have been consistently good, holding opponents under 100 rushing yards in seven of 12 games.

    Penn State doesn't put up a lot of points. But they have two good running backs in Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton, who combined have run for 1,121 yards and 10 TDs.

Penn State Keys to Victory

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    Christian Hackenberg has eight TDs and 15 interceptions this season.
    Christian Hackenberg has eight TDs and 15 interceptions this season.Joe Sargent/Getty Images

    Minimize the BC run

    Penn State has one of the nation's top rush defenses, holding opponents to just 84.8 yards per game (tops in the nation). Facing a mobile quarterback like Tyler Murphy will be yet another challenge for Penn State.

    The Nittany Lions are stingy against the run and pass, allowing just 269 yards per game and 17.7 points per game.

     

    More efficiency on offense

    Penn State averages 19 points per game and this should be another game where points are tough to come by. Sophomore Christian Hackenberg averages 217 passing yards per game, but he has just eight TD passes. He must get Penn State down the field against a tough Boston College run defense.

    Because BC runs the ball so much, there just aren't many drives for opponents (Florida State, for example, only had seven and the Eagles nearly pulled off the upset). So Penn State will need to mix up the run and pass and try to make the most of each drive.

Boston College Players to Watch

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    Tyler Murphy leads BC with 1,079 rushing yards in 2014.
    Tyler Murphy leads BC with 1,079 rushing yards in 2014.USA TODAY Sports

    Quarterback Tyler Murphy

    Murphy graduated from Florida in December 2013 and transferred to Boston College. He has run for 1,079 yards in his final college season, setting a new ACC record. Murphy doesn't throw often but he completes 56.9 percent of his passes and has 11 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

     

    Tailback Jon Hilliman

    The freshman tailback has 712 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns, putting him into a second-place tie among the ACC leaders. Hilliman also broke the BC freshman record for carries, and he now has 185 rushes.

     

     

     

     

Penn State Players to Watch

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    Mike Hull leads Penn State with 134 tackles.
    Mike Hull leads Penn State with 134 tackles.USA TODAY Sports

    LB Mike Hull

    Penn State's leading tackler with 134, Hull led the Big Ten in tackles and was a first-team all-conference linebacker. The 6', 230-pound senior also has 10 tackles for loss and is a physical presence who leads the Nittany Lions.

     

    RB Akeel Lynch

    Lynch has run for 603 yards and four touchdowns. The 6', 200-pound senior, who was born in Toronto but played his high school football in New York, leads the team with 4.6 yards per carry.

     

    WR DaeSean Hamilton 

    Hamilton has 75 receptions and 848 receiving yards. The 6'1'', 200-pound sophomore has just one touchdown but has been effective in helping the Nittany Lions move the chains by averaging 11.3 yards per catch.

What They're Saying

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    Penn State's James Franklin is happy that his seniors get one more game with the Nittany Lions.
    Penn State's James Franklin is happy that his seniors get one more game with the Nittany Lions.USA TODAY Sports

    Penn State coach James Franklin

    To gopsusports.com: "We are very excited and appreciative to be going to New York City. Penn State has a long and storied bowl history and we look forward to another opportunity to keep our family together. I am so happy for our players, especially the seniors, for this chance to play together one more time."

    BC quarterback Tyler Murphy

    To bceagles.com: "It's definitely big to get back to another bowl game. Hopefully we can get a bowl game win and go 8-5."

Prediction

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    Penn State could get a momentum lift for 2015 with a bowl win over BC.
    Penn State could get a momentum lift for 2015 with a bowl win over BC.Michael Hickey/Getty Images

    Don't expect many points. Boston College loves to drains the clock behind an effective ground attack. Penn State mixes up the run and pass but Hackenberg must limit his turnovers after giving up 15 in the regular season.

    This game will come down to Penn State's rush defense vs. Boston College's ground attack. Give the edge to the Nittany Lions, who should come up with enough stops to pull out a close win in a low-scoring contest.

    Penn State 23, Boston College 17

    Bob Ferrante is the lead FSU writer for Bleacher Report. Follow Bob on Twitter. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. Stats are courtesy of bceagles.com and gopsusports.com.