PSU Bound for the Outback

Don't expect the official bowl announcement sometime Monday or Tuesday. But it will come down. The Nittany Lions will square off with an SEC opponent to be determined in Tampa Jan. 1.

Much like a jumbo jet circling an airport while waiting for clearance to land, the Outback Bowl is in a holding pattern in regard to announcing Penn State as its Big Ten representative this year. And much like that jumbo jet, it is not a question of if it will land but rather when.

As of this writing, unbeaten Ohio State and Michigan were squaring off for the Big Ten title, with both teams figuring to advance to BCS games. But Wisconsin, which beat Buffalo Saturday to improve to 11-1, was still technically BCS eligible. The Big Ten will not release the Badgers from BCS consideration until the OSU-Michigan game is complete.

Once Wisconsin is released, it will be snapped up by the Capital One Bowl, which is played in Orlando Jan. 1. That will free up the Outback — played in Tampa Jan. 1 — to pick the 8-4 Lions, who hammered down fourth place in the league with a 17-13 win over Michigan State at Beaver Stadium Saturday.

Following the game, a well-placed source at Penn State said the Outback bid is a given. Don't expect an official announcement until Sunday night or Monday. But bet the house the announcement will come.

“Once they release the Capital One Bowl to make an announcement, then we follow,” said Bernie O'Brien, vice-chairman of the Outback Bowl. “So we're meeting tomorrow night. We may know something [then]; we may not. We're waiting on the BCS. We're in a holding pattern.”

Is it fair to say the Outback is zeroing in on Penn State?

“It's fair to say we're very interested in Penn State,” O'Brien reported. “Very interested.”

Asked what the Nittany Lions bring to the table, O'Brien said, “tradition, great defense and a team on the upswing. And the coach; a legend for a coach. It all blends in. This history of the school is huge.”

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