Sizing Up The Gators

A quick look at Penn State's Outback Bowl opponent — Florida. Get the lowdown on Urban Meyer's powerhouse program.

For the second straight season Penn State will travel to the Sunshine State for a New Year's Day bowl game.

This year the Lions will face the state's namesake, the Florida Gators, in the 25th edition of the Outback Bowl (1 p.m., ABC).

Both of the teams' previous matchups came in bowl games, as well. An unranked Florida team upset Penn State, 17-7, in the 1962 Gator Bowl and defeated the Nittany Lions again, 21-6, in the 1998 Citrus Bowl; Penn State's Curtis Enis and Joe Jurevicius were both suspended for that game.

The 2010 Gators, whose record (7-5, 4-4) is identical to Penn State's, have struggled without quarterback Tim Tebow. His absence has naturally been most felt on Florida's offense, where the Gators scored 351 points, their lowest total since the 2005 season.

Replacing Tebow at quarterback is junior Jeff Brantley. Highly recruited coming out of high school, Brantley failed to live up to expectations this season, throwing for 2,020 yards and a disappointing nine touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Aiding Brantley in the passing game is freshman Jordan Reed, who has completed 18-33 passes for 192 yards. Their favorite targets are junior WR Deonte Thompson, who has 36 catches for 548 yards and multi-threat freshman Trey Burton, who has pulled in 30 receptions for 188 yards. Senior WR Carl Moore has 27 receptions for 349 yards while sophomore WR Frankie Hammond Jr. rounds out the passing game with 20 catches for 270 yards.

On the ground the Gators use a very diverse attack. Seven players rushed for at least 260 yards, led by junior RB Jeff Demps with 531 yards and a 6.0 average per carry. Burton has 371 yards and 11 TDs while sophomore RB Mike Gillislee has 315 yards and junior RB Chris Rainey 300 yards in just seven games, including a 6.7 average per carry.

Florida's strength in 2010 has been its defense.

The Gators boast one of the nation's top 10 defenses. The Gators rank in the top three of the SEC in seven statistical categories including: total defense (where they rank 10th nationally), pass defense, interceptions, pass efficiency defense , opponents' first downs, kickoff returns and punting.

Florida's defense is anchored by senior SS Ahmad Black, who has 102 tackles, fifth best in the SEC, including nine tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and three interceptions. Redshirt freshman LB Jelana Jenkins has added 73 tackles and two sacks, while senior DE Justin Trattou has notched 56 tackles and a team-leading 10 tackles for loss. Sophomore LB Jonathan Bostic has 52 tackles and three interceptions.

Florida's special teams are a strength, as well, with senior Chas Henry leading the nation in punting with a 46.4 average and freshman WR/KR Andre Debose leading the SEC and ranking eighth in the nation in kickoff returns with a 29.7 average.

Florida's head coach is Urban Meyer, who is in his sixth season at the helm of the Gators, where he has compiled a 64-15 record. He is 103-23 overall in 10 years as a head coach. Meyer is a three-time National Coach of the Year and has led Florida to two national championships. Meyer came to the Gators after two years at Utah where he led the Utes to a 12-0 record and No. 4 national ranking in 2004.

This will be Florida's fourth appearance in the Outback Bowl as the Gators are 2-1 in their previous appearances.

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