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2015 Photo Blog - TaxSlayer Bowl

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JACKSONVILLE - Welcome to live coverage of the 2015 Penn State football season. The Nittany Lions will meet Georgia in EverBank Field for the TaxSlayer Bowl. Take a look at photos from Penn State's 46th bowl trip.


Nittany Lions, Georgia Set for Matchup in TaxSlayer Bowl

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TaxSlayer Bowl Coverage: Arrival Press Conference | TaxSlayer Bowl Welcome DinnerTuesday Practice (Defense/Special Teams) | Thursday Practice (Offense) | Naval Station Mayport Visit | Children's Hospital Visit

Friday Links: Press Conference Transcript | Photo Galleries: Press Conference | Pep Rally

Game Links: Game Notes | Gameday Live Blog | Bowl Central

JACKSONVILLE - The long wait is over, and Penn State (7-5) is set to meet Georgia (9-3) in the 71st TaxSlayer Bowl inside EverBank Field on Saturday at noon (ESPN).

Playing in their 46th bowl game, the Nittany Lions will head into their fifth all-time visit in the Gator/TaxSlayer Bowl with 28 bowl victories, which leads all Big Ten institutions.

11585885.jpegPenn State has manufactured a superb string of practices leading up to Saturday's game. The Lions arrived at their destination hotel on Monday in Fernandina Beach. The team practiced three times at Fernandina Beach High School before a walk through on Friday afternoon.

The team has enjoyed many events and festivities around the bowl game all week, including a trip to Naval Station Mayport, Wolfson Children's Hospital, a golf outing and some time in the hotel's lagoon pool and the Atlantic Ocean.

Now, focus is solely on the task at hand. Head coach James Franklin and the captains participated in a preview press conference on Friday at EverBank Field to talk about the anticipation leading up to Saturday's second meeting between the Lions and Bulldogs.

"I'm really proud of our team and how the group has handled things this week," Franklin said. "Now, it comes down to what it always does, executing the gameplan and execution of fundamentals and techniques and playing with passion."

Finishing the season on a high is important on numerous fronts. At the top of the list is how a strong outing in a bowl game can send a team into the offseason with a big boost.

"I think obviously, taking a step from last year is really, really important," said Franklin. "Ending the season on a positive note against a historic program like Georgia is very important on a national stage like the TaxSlayer Bowl."

For the veterans on the team, a successful bowl game would put an exclamation point on the careers of a special senior class. It's a group of men who have been through almost anything you can imagine in their time with the Blue and White. The group will leave the program with back-to-back bowl game appearances when it looked like the postseason may never happen.

"We are really looking forward to this game," said center Angelo Mangiro. "For the seniors, going out as winners (is really important) because you don't know, for most of the guys, if you are ever going to play in a game again."

On the field, the Nittany Lions expect a tall task against a talented Georgia team. The Nittany Lion offense will face off with a unit ranked among the nation's best. Keeping mistakes to a minimum and staying on top of the first down chains are at the top of the list for the offensive unit.

"This is a very talented defense," said quarterback Christian Hackenberg. "I have a ton of respect for what they've done. I think they've got some great players up front. I have a ton of respect for the secondary. I think they are one of the most fundamentally sound groups I've ever seen on tape. It's going to be a great challenge for us, and we are really excited about it as an offense."

The matchup pits two very similar defensive units. Both teams are expecting a physical game where years are tough to come by. The Lions enter the TaxSlayer Bowl healthy on both sides of the ball. That includes Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and All-American defensive end Carl Nassib, who saw very limited action during the last two weeks of the season.

The Nittany Lions are 23-21-0 all-time against current SEC schools, which includes a 1-0 mark against Georgia after Penn State scored its first national championship with a 27-23 victory in the 1983 Sugar Bowl.

The 2015 version of the Nittany Lions has one more chance to put on the iconic white uniform in Jacksonville on Saturday. Following a great week of preparation, the Lions are ready to embrace the opportunity and task at hand.

"Being with these guys and the 2015 team for one last game is special," said defensive tackle Anthony Zettel said. "You put in so much time throughout the offseasons and years with everyone that the guys become brothers and family. And being able to put the helmet on one last time with this team is special."

Penn State Fans Fill Jacksonville Landing for Pep Rally
A crowd of approximately 1,500 Penn State fans gathered downtown Jacksonville for the TaxSlayer Bowl Pep Rally on Friday afternoon. The event featured the Penn State Blue Band, cheerleaders, The Lionettes, President Eric Barron, Director of Athletics Sandy Barbour and The Voice of the Nittany Lions, Steve Jones.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

VIDEO: Nittany Lions Visit Wolfson Children's Hospital

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FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - Several members of the Nittany Lion football team, cheerleaders and The Nittany Lion brightened the day of patients at Wolfson Children's Hospital on Thursday.

Following practice at Fernandina Beach High School, the Nittany Lions spent some time during the afternoon going room to room visiting patients at the hospital and playing games in the playroom. Take a look at the visit here.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

TaxSlayer Bowl Thursday Practice Roundup - Offense

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Photo Gallery - Thursday Practice, Hospital Visit & Golf Outing

TaxSlayer Bowl Coverage:
Arrival Press Conference | Tuesday Practice | Naval Base Visit

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - The Nittany Lion football team practiced for the third time in Florida during TaxSlayer Bowl game week on Thursday at Fernandina Beach High School.

For the third-straight day, temperatures in the 80s greeted the team as it took the practice field on Amelia Island. Penn State worked through its normal Thursday game week routine in shorts, jerseys and helmets.

blog_bowl.jpgThe Thursday session featured the longstanding tradition of each player switching jerseys. The offense (normally in white) wore blue jerseys and the defense (normally in blue) wore white jerseys. And each player donned a new number for the final full practice of the season.

Additionally, the senior players had the honor of selecting a player or coach carry him off the practice field for the final time. Anthony Zettel asking coordinator Bob Shoop and Trevor Williams asking cornerbacks coach Terry Smith were the highlights of the end-of-practice festivities.

The post-practice media availability focused on the offense on Thursday, with bowl game offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne and a host of players spending time with the approximately 30 media members who attended the last few periods of Thursday's practice.

The theme of the week from each member of the staff has been the sharp practices the team has put together since the bowl prep started in Happy Valley. Head coach James Franklin talked about the team's focus earlier in the week, and Rahne echoed the sentiment on Thursday.

"The guys have really practiced well since we've been down here," Rahne said. "I've been really excited about that, as has the rest of the staff."

Rahne is looking forward to his first opportunity to call the plays as the bowl game offensive coordinator. He will be in the press box during the game. Simply put, he wants to see the offensive unit play four quarters of football with great confidence.

"I just want us to go out there playing fast and aggressive," Rahne said. "Everything is not going to be perfect. It never is. I just want us to go out there and play with a lot of confidence, and with whatever Georgia throws at us, we are going to go out there and respond."

The Nittany Lions will face off against a Georgia team ranked eighth nationally in total defense. The Bulldogs have allowed 4.70 yards per play in 2015. 

"Georgia has a great defense. They've got some great secondary players. They've got some guys that can get after the passer," said Rahne. "It's going to be a very good challenge for the offense. I know we are all excited about it."

Georgia is ranked No. 1 in the nation in pass defense, allowing just 146.1 yards per game. The matchup between the Bulldog defensive backs and Lion wide receivers is something sophomore wide out Chris Godwin is looking forward to.

 "I think it's going to be a very good challenge for us," Godwin said. "They are the No. 1 passing defense in the country, and it's well deserved. Those guys on the back end of their defense work really well together, and they are a strong group. It's going to be a big challenge for us to go out there and make plays. It's really fun to go up against a great challenge like this to see where you are."

Post-Practice Player Remarks - Offense

Lions Visit Wolfson Children's Hospital
Six players, cheerleaders and The Nittany Lion represented Penn State during a visit to Wolfson Children's Hospital following practice on Thursday. The team members interacted with a host of patients in the hospital located in Jacksonville.

The Nittany Lions spent time at Buffalo Wild Wings on Thursday night following the day's activities, which also included a little fun on the driving range. Coach Franklin and the captains will participate in a press conference at EverBank Field on Friday morning before the team's final walk through at Fernandina Beach High School.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

TaxSlayer Bowl: Nittany Lions Visit Naval Station Mayport

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Photo Gallery - Practice & Naval Station Mayport

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - The best parts of a bowl trip are the added experiences the student-athletes get to take part in during their time away from typical game week duties.

Wednesday's TaxSlayer Bowl preparations included the second on-site practice of the week at Fernandina Beach High School, but when the team finished up the morning session, the group boarded buses bound for a unique visit to Naval Station Mayport.

After being escorted through the front gate of the Navy base, the team ate a barbecue lunch before embarking on a tour. The first stop visited a hanger and tarmac with several Sikorsky MH-60R "Seahawk" helicopters. The players interacted with pilots from the Helicopter Maritime Strike Squadron FOUR ZERO (HSM 40 Airwolves) while they toured the complex combat machines.

The HSM 40 Airwolves provides training to fleet pilots so they "may fight and win at sea." Numerous players sat inside the cockpits and back seating area of the helicopters as they asked questions of the pilots as the crews informed the group on weaponry, radar and what it's like to participate in combat.

11583480.jpegFrom the helicopter hanger, the team was escorted to a pair of ships, with half of the group boarding the USS Vicksburg and the other group walking on the USS Farragut. Named for both the land Battle of Vicksburg fought during the American Civil War and the city of Vicksburg, Miss., the USS Vicksburg (CG-69) is a Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser.

Named for Admiral David Farragut, the USS Farragut (DDG-99) is an Arleigh Burke-class destroyer. The current Executive Officer of the USS Farragut is CDR Megan A. Thomas, who is a Penn State graduate (1997). CDR Thomas was thrilled to welcome members of the team. Thomas addressed the team with words of encouragement on land before half of the squad boarded the 510-foot destroyer for a guided tour. Thomas is on track to become captain of the USS Farragut in the spring, becoming one of just eight female captains in the U.S. Naval fleet of more than 300 ships.

Thomas and the USS Farragut crew of approximately 300 returned home from an eight-month deployment on Nov. 7.

Naval Station Mayport features the third-largest naval surface fleet concentration area in the United States. The busy harbor is capable of accommodating 34 ships and an 8,001-foot runway capable of handling most aircraft in the Department of Defense inventory.

Sitting seven miles east of Jacksonville at the mouth of the St. John's River and Atlantic Beach, the base is home to 10,500 sailors and personnel. The Penn State players and staff members embraced the opportunity to visit the base by asking a host of questions about the operation and combat tactics. The tour included a look at missiles capable of traveling 1,000 nautical miles from the destroyer ships.

"You have to respect everything that these people do for our country," said wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who comes from a U.S. Marines family. "It's pretty cool to see all of this. It's good for all of the guys to see things like this, and we get to spend a lot of time together."

The Nittany Lions will practice again on Thursday at Fernandina Beach High School before a number of student-athletes visit Wolfson Children's Hospital.


Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

TaxSlayer Bowl Tuesday Practice Roundup - Defense & Special Teams

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Day 2 Photo Gallery - Practice and Welcome Dinner

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - The Nittany Lion football team practiced for the first time in Florida during TaxSlayer Bowl game week on Tuesday afternoon at Fernandina Beach High School.

11580584.jpegTemperatures in the 80s and partly cloudy skies greeted the team as it took the field on Amelia Island. Practicing in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets, Penn State worked through its normal Tuesday game week routine in the warm conditions.

Head coach James Franklin kicked off practice by having a little fun with a role reversal of some of the young offensive players serving as defensive backs and young defensive players serving as receivers in a one-on-one drill. The matchups also included several staff members, including assistant coaches Josh Gattis and Terry Smith.

The post-practice media availability focused on defense and special teams on Tuesday, with coordinator Bob Shoop and a host of players spending time with the approximately 25 media members who attended the last few periods of Tuesday's practice.

Coach Shoop's message to the team during a meeting earlier this week was to play the TaxSlayer Bowl with the mindset that this postseason game will play a big role in defining the 2015 team's legacy. Leading up to gameday, Shoop said the team has practiced with a sense of urgency and intensity to ensure the reps and drills have been crisp as the 71st TaxSlayer Bowl inches closer.

"I think this is a great opportunity for us," said Shoop. "We've practiced really well. There has been a lot of juice and a lot of energy. I think about all of the seniors in this group, and that's a special group of men...Nobody on this team has had a losing season. To be in Jacksonville on Jan. 2 playing Georgia is a great opportunity for us. Everybody has really practiced well, and they are looking forward to it."

The Nittany Lions had a group of visitors from the Jacksonville area at the end of practice on Tuesday. Approximately 15 families and children from Dreams Come True, an organization in the northeastern portion of Florida serving as a non-profit dedicated to granting dreams for children with life-threatening illness, watched practice and interacted with the players after the team finished Tuesday's session.

11580539.jpegThe practice attendees from Dreams Come True visited from Jacksonville, St. Augustine and southern Georgia. The organization has been affiliated with the TaxSlayer Bowl for more than 10 years, but Tuesday was the first time the children were able to attend a practice.

For the team, spending time at the expansive pool area on the team hotel's property and beach have been highlights during the stay in Florida. Running back and special teams ace Nick Scott said that he spent all evening on Monday at the pool, and on Tuesday, he and the Lions were headed to the Atlantic Ocean after practice.

"The pool has been my favorite part (at the hotel). It's awesome," Scott said. "A lot of the guys have walked along the beach, but I'm definitely planning on going out into the water today."

The Nittany Lion travel party participated in a welcome dinner at the Omni Amelia Island Plantation on Tuesday night. The surf and turf buffet featured a wide array of local seafood. The team will practice in the morning on Wednesday before a trip to Naval Station Mayport for a tour and lunch.


Post-Practice Player Remarks - Defense & Special Teams

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

Nittany Lions Arrive in Florida for TaxSlayer Bowl

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Photo Gallery

FERNANDINA BEACH, Fla. - Sunny skies and temperatures in the mid-80s greeted the Nittany Lion football travel party when it arrived in Florida on Monday afternoon.

Penn State boarded a United Airlines Boeing 747-400 in Harrisburg for a quick flight to Jacksonville to kick off game week activities for the TaxSlayer Bowl. Amelia Island will be the team's home for the days leading up to the program's 46th bowl game. Penn State will begin on-field prep for the matchup against Georgia on Tuesday afternoon at Fernandina Beach High School.

Head coach James Franklin and sophomores Grant Haley and DaeSean Hamilton talked with the media after the team arrived on Amelia Island on Monday. Take a look here.

James Franklin

Player Remarks

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VIDEO: TaxSlayer Bowl Preview - 1-on-1 with James Franklin

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - 'Tis the season for spending time with family and friends. At, we would like to wish all of the loyal Penn State fans Happy Holidays.

We can't wait to see everyone clad in white during the TaxSlayer Bowl. In the meantime, we caught up with head coach James Franklin on TaxSlayer Bowl Media Day to look ahead to the team's trip to Jacksonville for the program's 46th bowl game.

The Nittany Lion student-athletes and staff members are home for the Christmas holiday. The team practiced on Monday before a few days off this week. The staff and team will reconvene in Happy Valley on Sunday for one final practice before the travel party heads to Jacksonville on Monday morning.

Enjoy the holiday, and we will see you in Jacksonville next week.

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony

TaxSlayer Bowl Visitor's Guide - Things to Do in Jacksonville Area

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UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions will play in Jacksonville for the first time in 40 years when they meet Georgia in the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 (12 p.m. on ESPN).

Fans traveling to Jacksonville to cheer on the Blue and White can look for warmer temperatures and plenty of options to see and do during a visit to the Sunshine State.

Penn State fans still looking for plans on Jan. 2 are encouraged to purchase tickets for the TaxSlayer Bowl. More than 30,000 Penn State alums live in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. For more information on tickets, ticket packages and bowl information, visit Penn State's Bowl Central at or call 1-800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

For those who are traveling, take a look through a few areas to visit during a stay in Jacksonville.

Jacksonville Landing
In the heart of downtown Jacksonville alongside the St. Johns River (one of the few rivers in the United States that flows north) is Jacksonville Landing. Built in 1987, Jacksonville Landing features 126,000 square feet of shopping, dining and a historic museum complex. There are more than 60 stores and services located inside Jacksonville Landing, including 16 different restaurants to choose from. The Landing features several restaurants with spectacular views of the St. Johns River. Fans are also encouraged to visit the Riverwalk and ride the Water Taxi while visiting Jacksonville Landing. Jacksonville Landing is also scheduled to conduct a fireworks display on New Year's Eve. Live music and entertainment begins at 4 p.m. on New Year's Eve at Jacksonville Landing.

More Information on Jacksonville Landing -


Jacksonville Beach
Jacksonville Beach is a city on the Atlantic Coast, east of downtown Jacksonville. Along with Mayport, Atlantic Beach, Neptune Beach and Ponte Vedra Beach, Jacksonville Beach makes up a host of communities part of the "Jacksonville Beaches". There are 22 miles of beaches in Jacksonville, offering a wide-range of water sports, restaurants and family fun. Adventure Landing, which features a water park, Beaches Museum and History Park and Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier are among the areas to visit.

More information on Jacksonville Beach -


Amelia Island
Located approximately 45 minutes north of downtown Jacksonville, Amelia Island is a chain of barrier islands featuring 13 miles of pristine beaches. There are more than 70 restaurants, 117 holes of world-class golf, a 50-block historic district downtown Fernandina Beach, shopping and a landscape of the lush maritime forest, marshland and beaches.

More information on Amelia Island -


The Stadium Course at TPC Sawgrass
The Stadium Course has been honored by multiple golf publications as a top golf destination. This is also the home of The Players Championship, with its par-3 17th island green being known as one of the world's most recognized and emulated holes.

More information on TPC Sawgrass -

17 tpc.jpg

St. Augustine
The oldest continuously occupied European-established settlement within the borders of the contiguous United State, St. Augustine is located approximately 45 minutes south of Jacksonville along the Atlantic Coast. The city was founded on Sept. 8, 1565 and served as the capital of Spanish Florida for more than 200 years. St. Augustine boasts a historic district with cobblestone streets, cafes, unique shops and landmarks, including Castillo de San Marcos, Lightner Museum, Flagler College and Fort Matanzas. During Nights of Lights, St. Augustine glows with holiday lights from the ground to the rooftops. St. Augustine's Nights of Lights feature millions of tiny white lights that create a festive atmosphere in the Nation's oldest city.

More information on St. Augustine -

castillo de san marcos.jpgnight of lights.jpg


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Sights & Sounds from TaxSlayer Bowl Media Day

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11566228.jpegTaxSlayer Bowl Central | James Franklin Press Conference Video | Photo Gallery
Transcripts: James Franklin | Assistant Coaches | Players

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. - The Nittany Lions are two weeks away from playing in the program's 46th bowl game when they line up against Georgia at the TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville.

Following a break for final exams, the Nittany Lions returned to the practice field on Friday afternoon to resume on-field preparations for the season finale. Prior to practice, head coach James Franklin, along with two assistant coaches and a host of players, spent time with the media at Beaver Stadium to preview the trip to Florida and the game.

Take a look through some sights and sounds following a busy day of interviews for TaxSlayer Bowl Media Day.

Fourteen Scheduled to Graduate
This will be a momentous weekend for a host of Nittany Lions and the culmination of their academic endeavors. In all, 14 members on the current roster are slated to participate at commencement ceremonies this weekend. That list includes center Angelo Mangiro, who will be earning a master's degree in Curriculum and Instruction with an option in early childhood education. The other seniors who have been approved to graduate are: Matt Baney, Tarow Barney, first-team All-American Carl Nassib, Trevor Williams and All-Big Ten honoree Anthony Zettel.

The football graduates include eight players who have eligibility remaining for the 2016 season: Adam Breneman, Derek Dowrey, Malik Golden, Austin Johnson, Jake Kiley, Geno Lewis, Nyeem Wartman-White and Gary Wooten, Jr.

"I'm really proud of the guys that we have got graduating this weekend, which is what it's all about," said head coach James Franklin. Those guys have worked incredibly hard, and I'm very proud of everything they have accomplished."

Bowl Practices
The Nittany Lions began practicing for the postseason on the day of the TaxSlayer Bowl announcement on Dec. 6. Penn State practiced five times during the first week of the allotted period. Under NCAA rules, teams competing in a postseason bowl game are allowed to practice 15 times. From now until the 12 p.m. kick on Jan. 2, the Lions are slated to practice on Friday, Sunday and Monday before heading home for the Christmas holiday. The team will then resume normal game-week preparations on Dec. 27 before traveling to Jacksonville on Dec. 28.

"There's a period of time that the players and coaches get to spend with their families and enjoy themselves and then we have been able to get a good amount of practices since the season ended, take a little break and then get back into almost a normal week and get ready for the game," said Franklin.

As was the case last season, the team spent the first handful of practices as primarily "player development" sessions. The coaching staff spent final exams week game planning for Georgia. Coach Franklin noted that Friday's session would be half player development and half prep for Georgia. Beginning on Sunday, the team will shift focus entirely towards Georgia prep.

Bowl Practice Site
The team will set up camp in Amelia Island, Fla., during the days leading up to the TaxSlayer Bowl. The team will practice at Fernandina Beach High School, which is located approximately one hour north of downtown Jacksonville.

Lions Looking Ahead to Warm Weather
While it has been an unseasonably warm December in Happy Valley, the players are excited about spending time in Florida for several days before kickoff at EverBank Field. Bowl games are a unique opportunity to enable the players a chance to spend time together while participating in a host of events before playing the game.

"Obviously a bowl game is a great experience because it extends that period of time you have in that season, or that year," said offensive tackle Andrew Nelson. "This 2015 Penn State football team is going to be together for a couple more months than we could have been and that's what's great. The bowl tries to do a great job of making it an awesome experience for the guys and it is fun."

The team will spend five nights at a resort alongside the Atlantic Ocean on Amelia Island. Preliminary forecasts are predicting weather conditions in the mid-70s when the team arrives in Florida.

"I'm pretty anxious," said wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton. "Going down Jacksonville is going to be a nice environment. The resort we are staying at is supposed to be very nice. It will be a fun week with all the guys and going to all of the bowl game festivities should be pretty fun."

A Look at Georgia's Defense

When Penn State and Georgia line up for the TaxSlayer Bowl, it will be a matchup of two talented defenses. The Bulldogs head into the bowl season with a pass defense ranked No. 1 in the nation. The Bulldogs have allowed just 146.1 passing yards per game, nine passing touchdowns and a total of 156 completions.

"Watching them on film I can see that they are solid," said Hamilton. "I think their front seven is very good and their defensive backs are obviously very athletic - I think those are the people who anchor their defensive and make plays for them. I think it will be a good challenge for us and we're looking forward to it."

Georgia is ranked ninth in the nation in scoring defense at 16.9 points per game. The entire projected starting front seven on the Bulldog depth chart is made up of juniors or seniors. Georgia finished the regular season fifth nationally in fewest first downs allowed.

Tickets Available
Penn State fans still looking for plans on Jan. 2 are encouraged to purchase tickets for the TaxSlayer Bowl. More than 30,000 Penn State alums live in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina. For more information on tickets, ticket packages and bowl information, visit Penn State's Bowl Central at or call 1-800-NITTANY, weekdays from 8 a.m.-5 p.m.

Video Interviews talks with several Nittany Lions on TaxSlayer Bowl Media Day.

Christian Hackenberg

Chris Godwin

Jason Cabinda

Grant Haley

Follow's Tony Mancuso on Twitter @GoPSUTony