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TicketCity Bowl 2012, Houston Vs. Penn State: Cougars, Nittany Lions Try To Ignore Outside Distractions

Both the Houston Cougars and the Penn State Nittany Lions may struggle to muster up motivation for the Monday's TicketCity Bowl. The Houston Tigers were on their way to an undefeated season and a potential BCS National Championship Game berth before losing to Southern Miss in the last week of the regular season. Head coach Kevin Sumlin decided to move on to the same position at Texas A&M, leaving Tony Levine to lead the Cougars in the interim. Penn State, meanwhile, is still feeling the ramifications of a sex scandal involving former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky that resulted in the firing of legendary head coach Joe Paterno.

With both schools undergoing transition, it's tough to know what to expect from the game. The Cougars still presumably have one of the best offenses in college football, led by Case Keenum. The senior quarterback earned plenty of Heisman talk during the regular season, leading the FBS with 5,099 passing yards and 45 touchdowns on the season. Whether Houston has a defense is another matter. Against a Conference USA schedule they haven't exactly been tested. Luckily for them, Penn State's offense is only rumor.

The Nittany Lions averaged under 20 points per game, in large part due to some shaky quarterback play. Junior Matthew McGloin eventually earned the permanent starting nod over Rob Bolden, but was hardly stellar. Bolden was worse, though, completing just 42 percent of his passes and throwing four interceptions to just one touchdown on the year. Unfortunately for Penn State, it appears McGloin may be out with a concussion suffered during a fight with teammate Curtis Drake, potentially giving Bolden the task of keeping pace with Keenum.

Penn State will like depend on its defense to beat the Cougars, as they have all season. The Nittany Lions gave up just 15.7 points per game during the season, led by All-American defensive tackle Devon Still. Slowing down Keenum is a daunting task no matter how good your defense is however, especially with the weight of outside distractions potentially dragging you down.

For more on the TicketCity Bowl, head over to the SB Nation Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries, as well as the game's official site. For more on the 2011-12 bowl season, check out our NCAA Football hub.