Outback Bowl Preview

Dec. 22, 2010


PENN STATE (7-5, 4-4 Big Ten)
Florida (7-5, 4-4 SEC)

Saturday, Jan. 1, 2011 • 1 p.m. ET
Tampa, Fla. • Raymond James Stadium (65,657)
ABC • Announcers: Mike Tirico, Jon Gruden, Suzie Kolber

Series: Florida leads, 2-0
Last Meeting: Jan. 1, 1998: Florida 21, Penn State 6

24.6 Points/Game 29.2
22.6 Points Allowed/Game 21.1
30:38 Time of Possession 28:43
142.8 Yards/Game 165.6
164.6 Yards Allowed/Game 129.9
14 Touchdowns 29
231.2 Yards/Game 191.2
187.9 Yards Allowed/Game 173.0
219-384 Completions/Attempts 216-354
57.0 Completion Percentage 61.0
18/12 TDs/INTs 12/11
15 Takeaways 24
16 Giveaways 25

Penn State (7-5, 4-4) will take part in its sixth straight bowl game, the program's longest streak of postseason play since participating in 11 straight bowl contests at the conclusion of the 1989-99 campaigns. The Nittany Lions will look to maintain their undefeated record in the Outback Bowl, including victories over Tennessee in 2007, Kentucky in 1999 and Auburn in 1996. PSU will battle Florida (7-5, 4-4 SEC) of the SEC on Saturday, Jan. 1, at 1 p.m. ET in Tampa, Fla. Head coach Joe Paterno will make his 37th bowl appearance at Penn State and boasts 24 victories, both of which stand as NCAA records. Overall, the school has built a 27-13-2 record in postseason play, including a 10-3 mark since joining the Big Ten. Paterno's 10 bowl triumphs since joining the Big Ten is a record for head coaches while leading conference programs. PSU has won four of its last five bowl games, including triumphs in the Orange, Outback, Alamo and Capital One Bowls. The Big Ten has produced a record of 9-12 in the Outback/Hall of Fame Bowl, including victories in two of the last four games for Iowa (2009) and Penn State (2007).

The Gators will be making their 20th-straight bowl appearance, which ranks first in the SEC and second nationally. It will be Florida's fourth appearance in the Outback Bowl.

This will be just the third meeting all-time between UF and the Nittany Lions, as Florida posted a 17-7 win in the Gator Bowl on Dec. 30, 1962, and collected a 21-6 victory in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 1998. Florida is 18-19 all-time in bowls and owns a 1-2 record in the Outback Bowl, with its most recent trip to the contest a 31-24 victory over Iowa on Jan. 2, 2006.

The Nittany Lions and Gators rank among the nation's Top 10 winningest programs over the past six years. Since the start of the 2005 season, Florida has a 64-15 record (81.0) to rank No. 4 nationally and Penn State is No. 10 with a 58-18 mark (76.3).

Penn State's offense ranked sixth in the Big Ten in passing (231.2), eighth in rushing (142.8), and ninth in total yards (374.1) and scoring (24.6).  The Nittany Lions have been faced with mixing the "old" with the "new" this season, and that's no hit on head coach Joe Paterno, who turned 84 years young on Dec. 21.  Evan Royster, the school's all-time leading rusher, looks to close out his senior campaign on a strong note after struggling to get out of the gates earlier in the year. Royster has gained 3,834 career rushing yards and his 29 career rushing touchdowns are tied for fifth in the school records book. Royster earned 916 yards on 188 carries (4.9) this season with six rushing touchdowns. He needs 84 yards in Penn State's bowl game to become the first Nittany Lion with three 1,000-yard rushing seasons. Royster is also fifth on the team with 21 receptions and one touchdown in a passing game that has seen its growing pains this season.  That's where the "new" comes in.  Despite freshman Rob Bolden getting the nod at quarterback earlier in the year, sophomore Matt McGloin started four of last five games and led team's second half surge.  McGloin quickly made his mark by becoming the first quarterback in school history with consecutive 300-yard passing games.  Averaging 167.1 yards in eight total contests this year, McGloin has thrown for at least 200 yards in four of last five outings.  Wideout Derek Moye was fifth in the conference this season with 67.2 receiving yards per game.  While there was some "old" and "new" this year, the one constant for the Nittany Lions was guard Stefen Wisniewski, who earned several All-America honors from such outlets as the Associated Press, American Football Coaches Association, and the Walter Camp Football Foundation.

The Gators ranked third in the SEC in passing (173.0) and total yards allowed (302.9), fourth in scoring (21.1) and fifth in rushing (129.9). Strong safety Ahmad Black, a first team All-SEC selection, headlines the Florida defense with a team-high 102 tackles, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries, and is tied for the team lead with three interceptions. The senior also has 10 tackles for loss, a sack and two pass breakups on the year. Redshirt freshman Jelani Jenkins, also an All-Conference pick, leads an active linebacking unit with 73 tackles (39 solos) and two sacks. Florida is one of three schools in the nation (Hawaii, Nebraska) that has four players with at least three interceptions (Black, Jenkins, Jonathan Bostic, and Jeremy Brown). Overall, eight Gators have at least one interception and their 17 total picks on the season are tied for ninth in the country.  Senior defensive ends Justin Trattou (56 tackles, team-high 12 TFL) and Duke Lemmens (4 sacks) and junior defensive tackle Jaye Howard (11 TFL, 3 sacks) provide a steady pass rush and anchor the Florida run defense.  The Gators' "D" often has a good place to start as senior punter Chas Henry, a 2010 First Team All-SEC honoree and Ray Guy Award winner, is tied for the national lead with 46.4 yards per kick. Sixteen of his 34 punts landed inside of the 20-yard line and the Gators have allowed only 100 yards on 11 punt returns this season.
On offense, Florida struggled this season to replace departed Gator legend Tim Tebow under center.  UF rated sixth in the SEC in rushing (165.6), eighth in scoring (29.2), ninth in passing (191.2) and 10th in total yards (356.8).  The Gators are directed by redshirt junior quarterback John Brantley, who has completed 194 of 316 passes (61.4 percent) for 2,020 yards and nine touchdowns with nine interceptions for a passer rating of 118.8.  Freshman quarterback Trey Burton, who has been used primarily as a rusher and a receiver, has emerged as a dynamic offensive threat. He has run for 347 yards and 11 touchdowns and caught 30 passes for 188 yards and one score.  Earlier this season, he set a school record and an SEC freshman mark when he scored six touchdowns against Kentucky. Jeff Demps leads the Gators with 531 rushing yards, averaging 6.0 yards per carry, but the Gators have had four players rush for over 300 yards this season, making Florida one of six teams from a BCS conference to accomplish the feat.  One of those additional contributors is sophomore Mike Gillislee, who rushed for 315 yards and six scores on his 54 attempts (5.8). Junior wide receiver Deonte Thompson (36-548-1 TD) is Brantley's main target in the passing attack but, Burton, Carl Moore (27-349-1 TD), Chris Rainey (22-198-3 TDs), and Frankie Hammond, Jr. (20-270-2 TDs) all are aerial weapons.

Defensively, the Nittany Lions were second in the Big Ten against the pass (187.9), fifth in scoring (22.6), sixth in total yards allowed (352.5) and seventh in rushing (164.6).  Senior defensive tackle and co-captain Ollie Ogbu was selected to the All-Big Ten second team by the conference coaches after leading Penn State with 8.5 tackles for loss this season. He recorded 46 tackles, including a career-best seven stops in the regular-season finale against No. 10 Michigan State.  Chris Colasanti also knows how to get to the ball.  A 2010 honorable mention All-Big Ten choice, Colasanti ranked fifth in Big Ten in tackles with 102 and is tied for second on team with 8.0 tackles for loss. His 18 tackles against Illinois earlier this year are tied for most by a Big Ten player this season.  Also contributing to the Penn State defense is Michael Mauti (6.2 tpg), Nate Stupar (6.0, 6.5 TFL) and honorable mention selection D'Anton Lynn (5.9).