Andre Johnson: Memphis will briefly keep it close, but Penn State ultimately wins in a Cotton Bowl rout

As No. 17 Memphis prepares to square off against No. 10 Penn State Saturday morning at 11 a.m. CST at AT&T Stadium, longtime sports journalist Andre Johnson chimes in on whom he predicts will emerge as the winner of the beautiful Cotton Bowl Classic trophy.

DALLAS — According to ESPN’s Football Power Index, No. 10 Penn State has a 72 percent chance to beat No. 17 Memphis as the Tigers will play in arguably the biggest bowl game in school history. Unlike Memphis, the Nittany Lions boast a tradition-rich program that’s accustomed to playing in major bowl games dating back to the Joe Paterno era.

The Tigers, meanwhile, boast a high-powered offense that customarily scores in bunches. They will need to jump out to an early two or three touchdown margin against Penn State’s potent defense if they are to have a real shot at upsetting a Nittany Lion team that stayed in the College Football Playoff discussion for a majority of the 2019 season.

Memphis’ defense has been lethargic for most of the season and the Tigers had to rely mostly on their resilient offense to bail them out of trouble in close games. Most importantly, the Tigers will need to force turnovers and capitalize off Penn State’s mishaps as a way to dictate the flow and pace of this game.

By and large, I see Penn State heading into the fourth quarter with a 10-point lead and extending that margin midway through the final frame, thus putting this contest out of reach and winning this one in relatively easy fashion.

The Nittany Lions are playing for respect heading into next season. The Tigers, meanwhile, are just happy to be on a massive stage for a change. Therefore, for Memphis, the party ends after today’s pregame tailgating and pep rally.

Pick: Penn State 40, Memphis 17.

Andre Johnson is the award-winning Founder and Publisher for Making Headline News. A 2000 graduate of the University of Memphis School of Journalism and a former staff reporter of sports for the Memphis Commercial Appeal newspaper, Johnson covers the NBA Southwest Division from Dallas, Texas. To reach Johnson, send email to or to Also, follow him on Twitter @AJ_Journalist.