Penn State set to take on Houston

DALLAS --- The first bowl game of 2012 is set to kick off in less than two hours, with Penn State concluding its turbulent season against Houston in the TicketCity Bowl here at the Cotton Bowl.

Houston coach Tony Levine said multiple times this week that one would be hard-pressed to find a better match-up on paper than this one between Penn State (9-3) and Houston (12-1).

“I think it's a matchup of two very distinct and different styles really across the board,” Levine said at Sunday's joint press conference with Penn State interim coach Tom Bradley. “Our offense against their defense, their offense against our defense.”

As we in the press box ready for the game, below are some pre-game notes to preview the second annual TicketCity Bowl. Once the game starts (12 p.m. eastern time), click over to our live chat and follow along with the action from Dallas.

-Monday’s game will be Penn State’s first bowl game without Joe Paterno on the coaching staff since 1948, when coincidentally, Penn State won the Cotton Bowl. Monday also marks the 25th anniversary of Penn State’s 14-10 Fiesta Bowl win over Miami, the second of Paterno’s two national championships.

-Penn State is 3-0 all-time in the Cotton Bowl. Acting athletic director Dave Joyner was one of the team’s co-captains when the Nittany Lions beat Texas in the 1972 Cotton Bowl. Tom Bradley’s brother Jim played for Penn State in the 1975 Cotton Bowl win over Baylor. The interim coach joked Sunday that he recently received history lessons about the Cotton Bowl from both Joyner and his brother.

-Monday marks the final game for 23 Penn State seniors, a class that has gone 38-13 since the 2008 season began. Many of them plan to begin training for a possible shot at the NFL after the TicketCity Bowl.

-The Nittany Lions have not seen a quarterback all season like the Cougars’ Case Keenum, who was a Heisman Trophy candidate. Keenum threw for 5,099 yards this year, and tossed an astounding 45 touchdowns to just five interceptions. However, he has yet to see a defense like Penn State's, so it should be interesting to see how he responds.

-Penn State and Houston have met only twice before, in 1964 and 1977, with the former winning both times. Penn State has never lost to a school from the Conference-USA.

-Sophomore running back Silas Redd, who said Saturday he has recovered from his late-season collarbone injury, needs just 49 rushing yards against Houston to move into the Top 10 on Penn State’s all-time single season rushing list. With 1,188 rushing yards this season, Redd is 22 yards behind the mark set by Curtis Enis in 1996 and 48 yards away from Evan Royster’s total in 2008.

-Houston coach Tony Levine played wide receiver for the Minnesota Golden Gophers from 1992-95 and caught his first career collegiate pass in a Minnesota loss against Penn State at Beaver Stadium in 1993.

--Jake Kaplan