JoePa, No. 11 Penn St. raring to go for bowl win

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Temperatures outside were in the 20s, and a biting wind made it feel even colder in Happy Valley, but Joe Paterno was raring to go.

It's bowl season again for No. 11 Penn State.

"We're going to practice outside, you got jackets," he joked as he walked into a news conference Friday before the start of indoor drills. A tough New Year's Day game against No. 13 LSU at the Capital One Bowl awaits.

It's not quite the postseason destination at the top of the Nittany Lions' wish list, not with designs on a lucrative at-large BCS berth in either the Fiesta or Orange bowls.

But the Orange Bowl ended up taking Iowa -- which beat Penn State during the regular season -- leaving Paterno's club shut out of a big-money game.

So the Nittany Lions are focusing on the quality of their opponent. In the Tigers, Penn State will face one of its toughest tests of the season in SEC country, a marquee matchup against another traditional football power.

After losses against Iowa and Ohio State, a win over LSU would put a nice bow on Penn State's otherwise ho-hum 10-2 regular season.

"We wanted a real good football team, a real notable team and we got it. We're playing against LSU," quarterback Daryll Clark said. "Obviously the ideal would be the BCS, but we're still in a really good bowl game."

No more than two teams from the same conference can play in the BCS, and Ohio State has the other Big Ten spot after winning the automatic berth as conference champion.

It's one of the many rules of the often mysterious BCS system, a postseason setup that Paterno has never liked. Still, he and other athletic officials worked the phones, and the school launched a video and e-mail campaign to tout Penn State's postseason resume.

After a 42-14 win on Nov. 21 at Michigan State to cap the regular season, Penn State waited around two weeks, only to find out this past Sunday it was left out of the BCS.

"How can I change my opinion if I don't like it to start with?" said Paterno, who has voiced support for a playoff system in the past. "You're not talking to a BCS guy. ... I think it's for the birds."

Paterno also said Friday that he spoke with Florida State coach Bobby Bowden the day before the Seminoles' veteran leader announced his retirement last week.

Paterno's 393 career wins are tops among major college coaches, five ahead of second-place Bowden. Paterno again praised Bowden and said he didn't offer his good friend advice.

"Bobby doesn't need advice from me," said Paterno, who then cut off a third follow-up question on Bowden.

"You know we're playing a game. We're playing LSU," said Paterno, growing frustrated with the Bowden questions. "I'm trying to get rid of you guys and everything else, get some practice in, so I can look at LSU tapes."

Penn State hasn't really started scouting LSU in-depth yet. The team will wrap up practice in State College on Saturday, then take a break so players can concentrate on exams.

The Nittany Lions will then head to Florida and practice in Daytona Beach starting Dec. 20 -- the day before JoePa turns 83.

Any special birthday plans this year, Joe?

Smiling, Paterno was speechless for several seconds before he said, "I don't know, I'll probably be at church praying ... praying for another year."