Penn State predictions: Can Lions cap amazing season?

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Well, it’s finally here.

The Penn State football team wraps up the 2017 season on Saturday when it faces off against Washington in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. The Nittany Lions have won three consecutive games and can put a nice bow on the season with a win on Saturday.

The Nittany Lions blew a two-score lead in last year’s Rose Bowl. They can erase those bad memories with a win on Saturday. Will they get the W? Let’s find out what our staff had to say:

Matt Lingerman, sports intern (season record 11-1): In what will almost certainly be his Penn State swan song, expect Saquon Barkley to provide NFL scouts one last glimpse of his star potential against Washington. Penn State will experiment offensively with their altered coaching staff but will ultimately beat the team who many believe unfairly entered last year's College Football Playoff over the Nittany Lions.
Penn State 45, Washington 34.

Chris Morelli, managing editor (season record 11-1): Make no mistake about it: This is the last game for star running back Saquon Barkley. Enjoy watching him for the final 60 minutes of his collegiate career. He will have a big day and the Penn State offense will come out firing. This one will be a good old-fashioned shootout. The point spread has dropped and with good reason — the game will be close. It won’t be as dramatic as last year’s Rose Bowl, but look for the Nittany Lions to hold off the Huskies in what should be a Fiesta Bowl for the ages.
Penn State 37, Washington 35.
 
John Patishnock, beat writer (season record 11-1): Teams with matching records (overall and conference) meet in Penn State and Washington, and both squads also share similar trajectories. After qualifying for last year's College Football Playoff, Chris Petersen and the Huskies are playing in a New Year's Six bowl game for the second consecutive season, same for the Nittany Lions. Washington might feel like a less-than-marquee opponent for Penn State, though the Huskies are nasty on defense and boast Jake Browning at quarterback, a 6-foot-2 junior who produced a good (if not great) season. That nastiness mentioned comes through with Washington allowing only 92.3 rushing yards per game, best in the NCAA. With the Fiesta Bowl likely being Saquon Barkley's last game as a Nittany Lion, look for new offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne to get him involved any way possible. If there are still any formations or packages that the team has been holding back, fans will see them on the field. The Lions are a slight favorite and have never lost in the Fiesta Bowl (6-0). The latter stat won't matter during the game, though Penn State holds the edge with the best player (Barkley) and quarterback (Trace McSorley) on their side. With Petersen leading the team, Washington has the potential to become the West Coast version of Wisconsin: a steady program that routinely wins close to 10 games a season with little fanfare. For nearly all season, Penn State has looked and played the part of a national title contender. Guys are cool and comfortable, and genuinely root for one another and their coaches. Even with Joe Moorhead and Charles Huff departing for Mississippi State, there's still plenty of cohesiveness for Penn State to pick up a victory and win 11 games in back-to-back seasons.
Penn State 34, Washington 24.

Michael Kresovich, sports intern (season record 10-2): Penn State will play Washington for possession of the Fiesta Bowl trophy. Penn State’s explosive offense has had the last few weeks to rest since its win over Maryland. Washington’s pass rush will be the Lions’ greatest concern for the bowl game. Likely the most talented to challenge McSorley and Company all year. I think Penn State earns the victory against Washington. Look for an offensive rampage.
Penn State 49, Washington 39.

Abbi Sales, sports intern (season record 10-2): I believe Penn State will end 2017 on the right foot with a win in the Fiesta Bowl against Washington. The Nittany Lions have been undefeated in their Fiesta Bowl run and as heard on media day, many players plan to keep it that way. It should be a pretty close game, seeing as both teams are very similar.
Penn State 31, Washington 26.

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