Penn State has been looking for a marquee win all season long. It’s too bad that won’t happen in this year’s Outback Bowl.
The Nittany Lions (7-5) will take on Florida (7-5) down in Tampa on New Year’s Day in a heavyweight matchup of two very average teams.
On paper this looks like a slam dunk. Penn State and Florida are two of the premier programs in the country. Both teams rank in the top 10 in wins over the last six years and have two of the top coaches in the game in Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer.
Paterno, who picked up his 400th win this season, is the all-time leader in bowl victories (24) and appearances (37). He’s playing against an SEC school for the third time in six years and will be playing his fourth BCS winner from 2009.
But before you get too excited for this matchup, just remember this is not the Penn State and Florida of old. Both teams are rebuilding.
Florida has had a tough time moving on without Tim Tebow. The Gators lack strong leadership and a starting quarterback. Urban Meyer has bounced around from John Brantley, Jordan Reed and Trey Burton all season long and went 0-4 against ranked teams this season.
Penn State has been just as lackluster.
You could argue its biggest win of the season was against Temple, who got absolutely hosed out of a bowl game this year. The Nittany Lions have struggled to find a consistent running game this season and had a very uncharacteristic and porous defense thanks to injuries and youth on both sides of the ball.
All and all, Penn State right now appears to be the better team. The offense has picked up tremendously under the leadership and guidance of former walk-on quarterback Matt McGloin. Still, SEC speed is a lot different than Big Ten speed, especially on defense.
It should be an evenly matched game between two rebuilding programs, but don’t kid yourselves Penn State fans, a win over Florida this year is nothing to hang your hat on.