Les Miles can coach. He’s 4-0 in bowl games as LSU’s head coach in all four years he’s headed the team. He also owns a 50-14 all-time coaching record and currently leads a Tigers team with a 5-3 conference record in the SEC, which is arguably the best conference in college football.
He hasn’t, however, faced the winningest head coach in college football history.
Nittany Lions head coach Joe Paterno also owns the title for most bowl game wins with 23. Paterno has won 9 of the past 12 bowl games dating back to 1993. More recently, he’s won three of the past four bowl games after a tough defeat to USC in last year’s Rose Bowl.
The last time Penn State and LSU faced each other was the 1974 Orange Bowl, with the Nittany Lions pulling out a close 16-9 victory. Regardless, when the Lions and the Tigers suit up on New Year’s Day 2010 in the Capital One Bowl, fans should expect a defensive battle.
Linebacker U boasts a defense just as its nickname suggests. They average 11.8 points allowed per game and 93.9 rushing yards allowed per game, both in the nation’s top ten. On the other side, LSU’s offense has sputtered, averaging just 309.7 yards on offense per game. That might mean something.
Keep in mind, there is a big difference between the SEC and the Big Ten, even with two teams from each conference having a presence in the BCS picture. While the Tigers suffered losses against two of the toughest teams in the nation – Florida and Alabama – the Nittany Lions haven’t faced an opposition with SEC speed.
Regardless, expect both coaches to have their teams ready. When “The Hat” and old JoePa square off, you might be able to throw all respective stats out the window. They both have a unique way of driving confidence into their players and making any game winnable, which might be a reason why they're both so highly respected in the college football world.
As for Penn State fans, a successful season lies with a win, and a win only, in the Capital One Bowl. Anything else would be a tough pill to swallow, especially with a rebuilding year up ahead.