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Offense, defense battle in TicketCity Bowl

AP Photo/Dave Einsel

Case Keenum, in his final collegiate game, looks to lead Houston to a win in the TicketCity Bowl.

Something has to give in the TicketCity Bowl on January 2 (Noon ET on ESPNU) when the Houston Cougars and Penn State Nittany Lions take the field at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas.

Houston Cougars Offense
Through 13 Games This Season

Houston boasts the top-ranked offense in the country, ranking first in total yards, pass yards and points. If the Cougars have a big game against the Nittany Lions on Monday, they could set FBS single-season records in those same categories (see chart on right).

Penn State counters Houston’s high-powered attack with one of the nation’s stingiest defenses. The Nittany Lions rank fifth in both scoring defense and pass defense, and have held opponents to just 300 yards of total offense per game (10th in FBS).

The last time the Cougars were held to 300 yards or fewer was September 30, 2006 at Miami (FL) when they gained 276 yards in a 14-13 loss to the Hurricanes. Houston has reached the 400-yard mark in every game this season, punctuated by 753-yard effort vs Tulane on November 10.

Houston Offense vs Penn State Defense

The Cougars prolific offense is powered by the big arm of Case Keenum, who is playing in the final game of his collegiate career. Keenum owns nearly every NCAA passing record, including yards, completions and touchdowns.

The Nittany Lions have allowed just nine passing touchdowns in 12 games the entire season. Keenum, who has thrown an FBS-best 45 touchdown passes this season, threw nine in a game against Rice on October 27.

Houston vs Penn State
FBS Ranks This Season

Keenum also leads FBS this season with 49 completions of 25 yards or longer and has thrown 19 touchdown passes of 25 yards or longer this season, second-most of any player in FBS.

Keenum will be tested against a Penn State secondary that has been among the best this season in defending the deep ball. Penn State has allowed nine completions of 25 yards or longer this season, tied for the fewest in FBS.

The Nittany Lions have only allowed one such pass in their last four games and are the only team in FBS who has not allowed a touchdown pass on throws of 25-plus yards.

Penn State Offense vs Houston Defense

The Nittany Lions offense has struggled for much of the season, tied for 109th out of 120 FBS teams with a scoring average of 19.8 points per game. The lone bright spot has been a running game that has piled up 165 yards per contest.

Silas Redd leads Penn State with 99 rush yards per game, but has been held in check the past few weeks. After leading the nation with 703 rushing yards in October, including five straight 100-yard games, Redd averaged just 60.7 yards on the ground in three November games.

Redd will look to get back on track against a Houston defense that is allowing 172 rush yards per game (78th in FBS). In the team’s only loss to Southern Miss, the Cougars gave up 207 yards on the ground, one of five games this season they have allowed 200-plus rushing yards.

Stats of the Game

• Penn State, which lost 37-24 to Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl, hasn't dropped consecutive bowl games since 1975-76.

• Houston has just one bowl win since 1980, a 34-28 victory over Air Force in the 2008 Armed Forces Bowl.