Quality losses

Anyone who follows college basketball knows that "quality wins" mean a lot when the NCAA Selection Committee extends post-season tournament bids. Two college football coaches believe "quality losses" can be significant, as well.

That would be Penn State's Joe Paterno and Tennessee's Phillip Fulmer, the opposing coaches in the Jan. 1 Outback Bowl at Tampa.

Paterno's Nittany Lions (8-4) suffered all four of their losses this fall against teams ranked in the Associated Press top 12. They bowed to No. 1 Ohio State (12-0), No. 3 Michigan (11-1), No. 6 Wisconsin (11-1) and No. 11 Notre Dame (10-2).

Fulmer can relate. His Volunteers (9-3) suffered all three of their losses against teams ranked in the top 12 – No. 2 Florida (12-1), No. 4 LSU (10-2) and No. 12 Arkansas (10-3).

What does it mean? Some would say it means both teams are battle-tested against the best the NCAA has to offer. Others would say it means Tennessee and Penn State have something to prove after going a combined 0-7 against the NCAA's elite teams this fall.

Paterno subscribes to the latter explanation. Told of the comment, Fulmer agreed with the PSU coach's assessment.

"I certainly do," Fulmer said. "We have a total of seven losses to teams ranked number 14 or higher, I believe. Both of us have played tough schedules and both of us have something to prove."

Penn State hung tough in three of its four losses. The Nittany Lions fell 24-6 to Ohio State, 17-10 to Michigan and 13-3 to Wisconsin but were manhandled 41-17 by Notre Dame.

Likewise, Tennessee was competitive in all but one of its losses. The Vols fell 21-20 to Florida and lost 28-24 to LSU when the Tigers scored the game-winning touchdown with nine seconds left. Tennessee's only lopsided loss was a 31-14 setback at Arkansas.

After watching his team bounce back from a 5-6 debacle in 2005 to go 9-3 in 2006, Fulmer is excited about the resiliency his players showed.

"The leadership has grown during the course of the year," he said. "The players have had a fantastic attitude and we have overcome a number of obstacles. We're happy to have this chance to play in a New Year's bowl game."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories