No. 11 Penn St. vs. No. 13 LSU in Capital One Bowl

Updated: December 31, 2009, 3:44 PM ET
Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The stereotypes emerge every time a Big Ten school meets an SEC program in the postseason: the plodding behemoths from up North can't keep up with the speedsters from down South.

Joe Paterno will take his chances Friday when No. 11 Penn State (10-2) meets No. 13 LSU (9-3) in the Capital One Bowl.

Sure, he's worried about LSU's speed. But old-school Paterno is focusing more on taking care of the little things that can turn a game.

"I've never been a guy for generalizations, and that's a media generalization," Paterno said about perceptions of the style of play in the Big Ten and SEC. "It's a football game. Who puts the ball on the ground, who gets penalties in key situations, things like that" matter more.

JoePa should know -- he is the all-time leader in bowl wins with 23. He's also major college football's winningest coach with 393 victories, including two national titles.

LSU coach Les Miles is no slouch either. He led the Tigers to the 2007 national title after speeding past Ohio State, Penn State's Big Ten nemesis, 38-24, for one of four straight bowl victories for the Tigers under Miles.

"We do some good things ... but I don't think there's any magic," Miles said about LSU's success.

Paterno vs. Miles. Big Ten powerhouse vs. SEC powerhouse. It's one of the most attractive matchups on the postseason schedule outside of the BCS.

The Capital One Bowl also pits two schools that fell short of the high expectations that come from their large and rabid fan bases. It can be disappointing for die-hard followers on both sides if their teams aren't in the national title hunt.

After rising to as high as No. 5 in the Top 25, Penn State fell out of the title chase in late September after a loss to Iowa at home. A second home loss to Ohio State in November effectively sealed Penn State's fate of getting shut out of a second straight Bowl Championship Series berth.

A victory Friday could silence detractors who say the Nittany Lions haven't won a big game all year.

"I don't think this is a must-win for us," Paterno said. "I don't think we have to prove anything. Our kids have to go out and play well and have some fun, and walk off the field and say, 'We gave it our best shot.' Good or bad."

Perhaps the most intriguing matchup of the afternoon pits LSU's offense -- which ranks 108th out of 120 FBS teams (309 yards per game) -- against Penn State's defense, which is eighth in the country (277 yards per game) and staunch against the run (93 yards).

Injuries in the backfield have forced one-time fourth-stringer Stevan Ridley into LSU's starting lineup.

Trindon Holliday -- the 5-foot-5 speedster who is the reigning NCAA 100-meter champion with a time of 10.0 seconds -- should also get carries and be a threat in the return game.

"We don't have anyone with a jet pack on their back to get going as fast as (Holliday) goes," Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.

Miles vowed Thursday that LSU would use its running game even though Penn State hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 15 straight contests.

If Linebacker U. standouts Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee shut down holes, it will be up to improving quarterback Jordan Jefferson to make plays and get the ball to top receiver Brandon LaFell (10 TDs) to dent Penn State's bend-but-don't break defense.

Jefferson, a 19-year-old sophomore, is drawing comparisons to Penn State standout QB Daryll Clark (23 TDs, 10 INTs) as a less polished and less experienced passer with mobility.

"This is really his first year, and I feel like he has been thrown in the fire on some very tough situations and I think he has been growing from those situations," LSU offensive coordinator Gary Crowton said of Jefferson.

The Tigers might be more tested than Penn State, having lost to Alabama, but beating Georgia on the road. LSU got to as high as No. 4 in the poll before also losing to then-top ranked Florida, 13-3, in October.

But LSU left tackle Ciron Black isn't about to give the Nittany Lions any bulletin-board material about their speed.

"I watched the linebackers on film and they run sideline to sideline. The defensive line is just as dominant as anybody in the SEC," Black said. "The whole thing about the SEC being more dominant ... I just don't see it."


Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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