Outback Bowl

Florida Gators (7-5) vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (7-5)

Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ABC)

Florida take by SEC blogger Chris Low: It will be a short drive for Florida to its bowl destination. The Gators are headed to Tampa, Fla., to take on Penn State in the Outback Bowl.

A bit of a surprise choice this high in the SEC’s bowl pecking order, the Gators (7-5) still carry a lot of clout with their brand, especially in the state of Florida. That brand won’t help them come Jan. 1 unless they figure out a way to move the ball and score some points.

They ended the regular season with a dismal 31-7 loss to Florida State, the third time this season the Gators were held to a touchdown or less. It was a struggle the whole way offensively, as John Brantley simply wasn’t a fit for Florida’s spread offense. The Gators went to a three-quarterback system after losing three straight games in October, adding Trey Burton and Jordan Reed to the mix, but the results weren’t much better in their last two losses to South Carolina and Florida State.

It’s hard to get a read on where this team is emotionally right now or how excited it will be to even play in a bowl game. Florida coach Urban Meyer vowed to rebuild the program the “right way” following the loss to Florida State.

This is a chance for the Gators to get off on the right foot in that process as they make their 20th consecutive bowl appearance.

Penn State take by Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg: Joe Paterno has done his best work preparing teams for the postseason, as the legendary Penn State coach owns a record 24 bowl victories in his extensive career. Paterno once again will try to prepare a young Nittany Lions squad for an intriguing postseason test against Florida in the Outback Bowl.

Although a 7-5 regular season never sits well in State College, Penn State won four of its final six games and showed significant strides on offense down the stretch. Spunky sophomore quarterback Matt McGloin provided a lift for a struggling unit and needs to perform well against the Gators. He’ll also need help from running backs Evan Royster and Silas Redd. Florida boasts a top 10 defense, so the Outback Bowl should provide a good barometer for the Penn State attack.

Penn State’s defense will get some time to heal up before facing a Gators offense that has taken several steps back following the departure of superstar Tim Tebow. Penn State won a low-scoring Capital One Bowl against LSU in January, and while we all hope for better weather and much better field conditions in Tampa, this game could play out in a similar way.

All but one of Penn State’s losses came against top 20 opponents, so the Lions have fared well against comparable opponents. Florida certainly qualifies as one.