UNIVERSITY PARK – Penn State and Tennessee will clash in the Outback Bowl on New Year\’s Day in the third post-season meeting between the national powers.
The No. 17 Volunteers (9-3) were selected Sunday to face the Nittany Lions (8-4) in the The 21st Outback Bowl. The contest will kick off at 11 a.m. ET on Monday, Jan. 1, 2007. The battle in Raymond James Stadium (65,567) will air on ESPN, the Penn State Sports Network and GoPSUsports.com, the official website of Penn State Athletics.
The Nittany Lions will be playing in the Outback Bowl for the third time and will be participating in a New Year’s bowl game for the third time in the past five seasons. Penn State will be making its 22nd January bowl appearance under Coach Joe Paterno and 33rd post-season trip overall under the all-time leader in bowl wins and appearances.
\”Tennessee is a great opponent for us,\” stated Paterno, who is in his 41st season as head coach and has an overall mark of 362-121-3 (74.8). \”They have a great football tradition and a very good team again this year. They played well in a tough league. It\’s going to be a challenging game for us.\”
The Penn State-Tennessee series is tied, 2-2, with the Nittany Lions winning the last two contests. The Volunteers won regular season contests in Knoxville in 1971 (31-11) and 1972 (28-21). The Nittany Lions earned a 42-17 win over No. 10 Tennessee in the 1992 Fiesta Bowl and a 31-13 victory over the No. 6 Vols in the 1994 Citrus Bowl.
Penn State has won 21 of its last 26 games, dating to the final two contests of the 2004 season. The teams the Nittany Lions lost to this season (Ohio State, Michigan, Wisconsin and Notre Dame) have a combined record of 44-4 and all are ranked in the BCS Top 10.
Coach Phillip Fulmer\’s Volunteers are 9-3 overall and were 5-3 in the Southeastern Conference. Among the teams Tennessee has defeated this season are California (35-18), Georgia (51-33), South Carolina (31-24) and Alabama (16-13), with the losses coming to SEC Champion Florida (21-20), LSU (28-24) and SEC West Division champion Arkansas (31-14).
Penn State will be playing in its 33rd bowl game under Paterno, who is the all-time leader in post-season appearances and victories (21). The Nittany Lions\’ 24 bowl wins overall are tied for third-best in the nation with Tennessee and Oklahoma. Penn State’s bowl winning percentage of 66.2 is the nation\’s best for schools with at least 10 post-season victories.
The Nittany Lions are 2-0 in their previous Outback Bowl appearances, defeating Auburn, 43-14 on Jan. 1, 1996 and Kentucky, 26-14, on Jan. 1, 1999. Penn State All-America wide receiver Bobby Engram was the Outback Bowl MVP vs. Auburn, while All-America defensive end Courtney Brown, the first selection in the 2000 NFL Draft, was the MVP in the 1999 Outback Bowl.
Tennessee has one previous Outback Bowl appearance, defeating Boston College, 38-23, on January 1, 1993, the year before the Big Ten\’s tie-in with the game began.
Paterno has an impressive 21-10-1 (67.2) winning percentage in bowl games, tied for third-best all-time among coaches with at least 11 bowl appearances. He is the only coach to win the Rose, Fiesta, Orange, Sugar and Cotton Bowls.
Paterno teams are 15-6 in New Year\’s bowl games, including a 26-23 triple overtime victory over ACC Champion Florida State in the 2006 FedEx Orange Bowl. He has taken Penn State to 13 different post-season contests, winning in 11 locales, more than anyone in college football history.
The Nittany Lions are 7-5 vs. Southeastern Conference foes in bowl games, with the last meeting a 13-9 loss to Auburn in the 2003 Capital One Bowl. Penn State is 6-4 vs. SEC opponents in post-season contests under Paterno.
The Nittany Lions are led by senior All-America linebacker Paul Posluszny, the school’s career tackles leader with 364 and the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American of the Year in Division I football; linebacker Dan Connor, a finalist for the Bednarik Award (with Posluszny); defensive tackle Jay Alford; All-America tackle Levi Brown; tailback Tony Hunt, who has gained more than 1,000 yards each of the past two seasons; quarterback Anthony Morelli, who has broken school season records for pass completions (194) and attempts (361) and punter Jeremy Kapinos, a finalist for the Ray Guy Award.
Posluszny, winner of the 2005 of the Butkus and Bednarik Awards, is finalist again for those two honors, as well as the Rotary Lombardi Award and the Lott Trophy.
Penn State and Tennessee have two of the nation’s most loyal and enthusiastic fans bases and play in a pair of of the nation’s largest facilities. The Nittany Lions drew 752,972 fans for their seven home games this season, an average of 107,567 that narrowly missed breaking the school record, set in 2001, when Beaver Stadium’s seventh expansion under Paterno raised the capacity to 107,282, second-largest in the nation. Tennessee’s Neyland Stadium is third-largest with a capacity of 104,079.