Pinstripe Bowl Matchups: Penn State vs. Boston College

Story posted December 26, 2014 in Sports, CommRadio by Abhar Shah

This Saturday, the Penn State Nittany Lions (6-6, 2-6 B1G) will take on the Boston College Eagles (7-5, 4-4 ACC) in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.

Penn State has dominated the all-time series between the two programs, owning a commanding 19-4 advantage.

After starting the season 4-0, the Nittany Lions have lost six of their last eight games. They have lost a couple of close games that they could have won if they made some plays offensively.

Boston College has had a pretty good season. Their blowout loss came to Louisville in which they lost 38-19, but other than that, every other game they lost was by ten or less points.

Let’s take a look at the matchups when these two long-time rivals take the field Saturday.

Penn State offense vs. Boston College defense

Penn State’s offense has struggled tremendously throughout this season. The inconsistency and the youth upfront has shown, as opposing defenses have had their way with the offensive line.

Sophomore quarterback Christian Hackenberg has had a frustrating season thus far, throwing for eight touchdowns and 15 interceptions.

The running game for this offense has been nearly non-existent. Their two running backs –Akeel Lynch and Bill Belton- have combined for 1,121 yards and ten touchdowns. The Nittany Lions average 103 yards on the ground, good for dead last in the Big Ten.

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 “We don’t have a true exceptional veteran difference maker to try to get him the ball,” said offensive coordinator John Donovan. “So we have to do whatever we have to do each week, wherever we’re healthy or whatever, and go on from there.”

Penn State’s offense has a tough challenge ahead of them because this Boston College defense is tough.

The Eagles’ defense is ranked 12th in total defense and fourth in run defense in the nation. This defense has been consistent all season, including holding No. 3 Florida State to their lowest point total of the year in a 20-17 loss.

The Eagles have a host of players that can have a big impact on the defensive side. Linebacker Josh Keyes has had a great season, totaling 63 tackles and 11.5 tackles for a loss. He was also named FWAA National Defensive Player of the Week after his performance against USC.

Boston College defense vs. Penn State offense

The Eagles’ offense is revolved around their run game. They rush for an average of 251 yards per game, which is 14th in the nation. A big reason for their success on the ground is senior quarterback Tyler Murphy.

Murphy not only leads the team in passing yards, but he also has 1.079 yards on the ground—most on the team. Murphy is a danger on the ground and also can throw the ball if given the opportunity. He has thrown for 1,526 yards and 11 touchdowns this season.

Boston College has several running backs that they can put in the game to get the job done. Besides Jon Hilliman and Myles Willis (BC's two leading rushers), Sherman Alston, Marcus Outlow and Tyler Rouse have proven to be solid backs throughout the season.

The Boston College strengths on offense, however, play right into the hands of the Penn State defense.

The Nittany Lion defense is no joke. This defense has played fantastic all season long. They are the second best overall defense in the country and the best run defense-something that will come handy when they go up against this Boston College offense that loves to pound the ball.

Two players that Boston College will have to look out for on Penn State’s defense are Anthony Zettel and Mike Hull.

Zettel has been terrific this season and it’s safe to say he is one of the most underrated players in the country. The junior has eight sacks, 15 tackles for loss and three interceptions, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

Defensive coordinator Bob Shoop raves about Zettel’s athleticism.

“Freakish athlete, you’ve heard me say that before. A guy who can throw the ball 75 yards in the air and drive a golf ball 300 yards,” said Shoop. “He’s so strong for a 280 pound guy, plays with such a good pad level and has such a great get off and is so disruptive up front. He’s turned himself from being a rotation defensive end to one of the top defensive tackles in the country.”

The heart of this defense is the senior captain Mike Hull. Hull finished the season with 134 tackles and an interception. Hull was also the recipient of the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award this season.

Also worth noting, both Boston College and Penn State have played teams that are in the first annual College Football Playoff. Penn State lost to Ohio State 31-24 in double overtime and Boston College fell to Florida State 20-17 on a late field goal by the Seminoles.  

Abhar Shah is a junior majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him, email abs5349@psu.edu