UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - When it comes time for bowl season, Coach Paterno wants to match up with an elite team on New Year's Day.
And for the 25th time in his storied career and the third consecutive
season, the legendary head coach got his wish as the Nittany Lions (7-5) will
clash with national power Florida (7-5) on New Year's Day in the Outback Back
at Tampa's Raymond James Stadium.
As a Penn State fan, you can't ask for much more than a Penn State-Florida matchup on college football's biggest day. It is a tremendous reward for the 2010 squad to earn a trip to a New Year's Day game against a superb SEC opponent.
Consider that Penn State will be playing a team in its bowl game that has won a national championship since 2004 for the third consecutive season. Penn State clashed with USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl Game. The Trojans won the national title in 2004. The Lions defeated LSU in the 2009 Capital One Bowl. The Tigers claimed the 2007 national title. That brings us to the 2011 Outback Bowl opponent. Florida won the national championship in 2006 and 2008.
Over the last six seasons, Florida owns a 64-15 record, which ranks fourth nationally. In the same time span, Penn State ranks No. 10 with a 54-18 overall mark since 2005. Two national powerhouses will meet on the same field in Tampa. The quote from Outback Bowl President and CEO Jim McVay speaks volumes about the classic matchup that will take place on New Year's Day.
"When you talk about tradition and history of college football it just doesn't get any better than Penn State and the University of Florida," said McVay. "It's our 25th anniversary game and we can't think of a better way to celebrate it on New Year's Day than with Coach Paterno's Nittany Lions and Coach Urban Meyer's Gators."
With a team of Florida's stature and history now on the schedule, it should add some extra motivation to the Nittany Lions as they kick off preparations for the Outback Bowl.
The Gators will be looking to treat the Outback Bowl as a "home" game on New Year's Day. Gainesville is a mere 131 miles from Tampa. This will mark the fourth time in six years that the Nittany Lions will be playing a team from the same state as the bowl game (Florida State, Texas A&M, USC and Florida).
Our advice for the Nittany Lion faithful, you ask? Pack your bags for Florida and wear white on New Year's Day.
The Nittany Lions and Gators have met just twice prior to this season's Outback Bowl. Florida ousted Penn State in the 1962 Gator Bowl by a score of 17-7. The most recent meeting came on New Year's Day in 1998 when the Gators tallied a 21-6 victory at the Citrus Bowl.
Coach Paterno is the all-time leader in victories (401) and fills a spot in the College Football Hall of Fame. Florida head coach Urban Meyer has a 103-22 (.842) overall record since his head-coaching career began in 2001. Meyer has the highest winning percentage among active coaches with at least five years of experience. Coach Paterno is fourth on the active list with a .750 winning percentage over 45 seasons.
When you think of elite college football programs, Florida and Penn State among the nation's best. And when you look through the potential sites and opponents for the Nittany Lions during this particular bowl season, this matchup is a win-win for everyone involved.
Now, the Nittany Lions will shift into preparation mode. After a week wondering who would be on the schedule in January, Penn State can begin watching film on the Gators. The additional 15 practices leading up to the bowl game are invaluable for the young talent on Penn State's roster.
It's Penn State-Florida on New Year's Day in Tampa. Can you ask for much more than that?