Capital One Bowl Preview

Dec. 28, 2009

(10-2, 6-2 Big Ten)
Roster | Stats

No. 13 PENN STATE vs. No. 12 LSU

Friday, Jan. 1, 2010 • 1 p.m. ET • Orlando, Fla. • Florida Citrus Bowl Stadium (65,438)
ABC • Announcers: Brad Nessler, Todd Blackledge

Series: Penn State leads 1-0 • Last Meeting: Jan. 1, 1974: Penn State 16, LSU 9

(9-3, 5-3 SEC)
Roster | Stats


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Penn State returns to the Capital One Bowl for the first time since the 2003 event and the fifth time overall, including appearances in 1998, 1994 and 1988. The Nittany Lions will battle Louisiana State for just the second time in school history and the first time since the 1974 Orange Bowl, a 16-9 victory for PSU.  Head coach Joe Paterno will make his 36th bowl appearance at Penn State and boasts 23 victories, both of which stand as NCAA records. Overall, the school has built a 26-13-2 record in postseason play, including a 9-3 mark since joining the Big Ten. PSU has won three of its last four bowl games, including triumphs in the Orange, Outback and Alamo Bowls.

Big Ten squads maintain a 10-9 mark in the Capital One Bowl, including victories in four of the last five years by Iowa (2005), Wisconsin (2006, 2007) and Michigan (2008).

The Tigers are making their 41st appearance in a bowl game, including their 10th straight. The 41 bowl appearances rank ninth all-time, while the current 10-game bowl streak is the nation’s ninth-longest streak.  LSU will be making its third appearance in the Capital One Bowl and the first since dropping a last-second 30-25 decision to Iowa in the 2005 game. LSU also took part in the 1979 Capital One Bowl (then called the Tangerine Bowl), beating Wake Forest, 34-10.  Les Miles has guided the Tigers to five consecutive bowl games, two of which were BCS bowls. LSU is 4-0 under Miles is bowl games and the Tigers have outscored their opponents 157-44 in those games. Last year, LSU capped its season with a 38-3 win over Georgia Tech in the Chick-fil-A Bowl.

Penn State enters the postseason with an offense that posted 29.7 points and 412.5 total yards per game, both marks ranking second in the Big Ten.  The Nittany Lions had a balanced attack in the regular season with 238.9 yards in the air and 173.6 yards on the ground each time out.  At times it was a “Jekyll and Hyde” scenario for Penn State with impressive performances during its wins and forgettable outings during its losses.  In their two losses this year, the Nittany Lions were outscored 45-17 and held to an average of 254.0 yards of offense.  In their six conference wins, they won by an average of nearly three touchdowns.  Quarterback Daryll Clark has been the leader of this PSU ballclub this season and shared the Chicago Tribune Silver Football award as Big Ten MVP last month.  Clark accounted for the conference’s top passer rating (145.7) and 232.2 passing yards per game, which ranked fourth in the league.  He completed 61.8 percent of his 346 attempts on the year and threw 23 touchdowns to only 10 interceptions.  Those interceptions often come in bunches as he has been responsible for seven picks in four losses during his 21 career starts.  Evan Royster ranked second in the league with 92.0 rushing yards per game and 5.9 yards per carry.  Wideout Derek Moye was ninth-best in the conference with 61.0 receiving yards per game. 

LSU’s defense has struggled at times this season, despite ranking third in the SEC with 16.0 points per game and allowing an average of 326.6 total yards, which ranked sixth.  LSU was ninth in the league against the pass (192.4) and fourth against the rush (134.2).  But while the 2007-08 ballclub forced 36 turnovers in 14 games en route to the BCS title, the 2008 and 2009 squads managed just 37 turnovers in 25 games, including only three in its final five regular-season contests.  Additionally, LSU gave up an average of 293.0 yards per game during a 7-1 start to the 2009 campaign, but gave up 393.8 in splitting its last four outings.  Linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was fourth in the SEC with 8.6 tackles per game, while fellow linebacker Perry Riley was ninth at 7.7.  Patrick Peterson excelled in the secondary, breaking up 13 passes and recording two interceptions on the year. 

The LSU offense struggled somewhat to light up the scoreboard this season, ranking 10th in the SEC with 25.5 points per game.  The Tigers rated ninth in the league in passing (180.1) and 11th in both rushing (129.6) and total offense (309.7) – a mark that also was just 108th nationally.  And what does the struggling LSU offense get as their bowl participant gift?  A date with an impressive Penn State defense that was among the nation’s best in several categories.  The Nittany Lions ranked fourth in scoring (11.8), eighth in total defense (277.1) and 10th against the run (93.9).  What makes those numbers even more daunting for the Tigers is that it remains unknown if tailback Charles Scott can play.  The Tigers’ leading rusher at 60.2 yards per game broke his collarbone in early November and missed the last three games.  He did return to practice on Dec. 14 and has been practicing within his limits in preparing for the bowl game.  If Scott can’t play, LSU will have to look past backups Keiland Williams (broken ankle) and Richard Murphy (knee) and likely play Trindon Holiday.  Quarterback Jordan Jefferson ranked ninth in the SEC with 178.5 passing yards per game.  He completed 62.1 percent of his 272 passes and threw for 16 touchdowns and only six interceptions on the year.  Brandon LaFell was fourth in the SEC with 4.3 receptions and eighth with 58.8 receiving yards per game. 

The experience that Penn State has on its defensive unit is tough for any team to compete against.  Josh Hull was fourth in the Big Ten with 9.2 tackles per game, while Sean Lee (8.9) and Navorro Bowman (8.4) rated sixth and seventh, respectively.  And don’t forget about Jared Odrick, who was eighth in the conference with 6.0 sacks and named the league’s Defensive Player and Defensive Lineman of the Year.