When news began to leak out that LSU would be headed for the Capital One Bowl in Orlando, fans of the Tigers may have been hoping for a rematch against Iowa, which escaped with a last-second, 30-25 win when the teams hooked up in the 2005 game.
Instead, the Tigers will get Penn State because Iowa received a BCS bid to play Georgia Tech in the Orange Bowl.
Still, the LSU-Penn State clash figures to be one of the more attractive non-BCS affairs in the postseason.
Both teams entertained bigger hopes at one time, but both sustained losses that squelched those dreams. LSU dropped early games to Florida and Alabama (plus one to Ole Miss) while Penn State lost conference affairs to Iowa and Ohio State.
LSU will be looking for its fifth bowl win under coach Les Miles in five seasons. His 2007 team won the BCS national title, beating Big Ten champion Oho State.
What's the secret to his success?
"I don't know that there's any secret," Miles told the New Orleans Times-Picayune. "We make some right decisions.
"Every bowl season is completely different. Our guys seem to be focused with the end of the season at hand and have done a great job preparing for that single opponent."
This will be just the second meeting between the Tigers and Nittany Lions. Penn State won the other, 16-9 in the 1973 season's Orange Bowl.
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: Injuries to running backs Charles Scott, Keiland Williams and Richard Murphy severely impacted the running game, which ranked 11th in the SEC in producing only 130 yards a game. QB Jordan Jefferson developed as the year wore on but never really took advantage of the receivers in his command. The Tigers were only ninth in the league in passing, netting about 180 yards a game.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: LSU limited opponents to just 16 points a game to rank third behind division winners Alabama and Florida in scoring defense. The linebacker corps is solid and deep with starters Kelvin Sheppard, Perry Riley and Harry Coleman, and backup Jacob Cutrera. CB Patrick Peterson is considered one of the top cover corners in the league.
MATCHUP TO WATCH: LSU WR Brandon LaFell vs. Penn State CB A.J. Wallace -- These two are bound to clash throughout the afternoon. LaFell is the leading receiver for the Tigers. Wallace is one of four Nittany Lions with two interceptions.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I know our players wanted to play in the best bowl, against a quality opponent in the greatest bowl destination, and Orlando was the pick." -- Coach Les Miles, after the Tigers were invited to play Penn State in the Capital One Bowl.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
BOWL BREAKDOWN: LSU vs. Penn State, Capital One Bowl, Jan. 1, Orlando, Fla. -- This will be LSU's 10th consecutive bowl appearance and the third in the Capital One Bowl. The Tigers split the other two, losing to Iowa in the final seconds in 2005 and beating Wake Forest in the 1979 game, when it was called the Tangerine Bowl.
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
WR Brandon LaFell -- LaFell is one of the top receivers in the conference with 52 receptions for 705 yards. He tied Auburn's Darvin Adams for the league lead in touchdown catches with 10.
RB Trindon Holliday -- A kick return specialist, LSU got Holliday more involved in the running game after injuries sidelined Charles Scott and Keiland Williams late in the season. Holliday is a burner; LSU bills him as college football's fastest runner.
LB Kelvin Sheppard -- Sheppard is a busy guy on defense, leading the Tigers in tackles with 103, good for fourth in the league.
CB Patrick Peterson -- Peterson was third in the league in passes defended with 15, including two interceptions. He was denied a potentially game-changing pick in the loss to Alabama following a controversial replay ruling.
--RB Charles Scott (clavicle), Richard Murphy (knee) and Keiland Williams (ankle) aren't likely to return for the bowl game.
Previous Report: 12/01/2009