Bowl Breakdown: Capital One
Expect a hard-fought, low-scoring CapOne Bowl between two good defenses
Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions are 5-2 against the SEC in bowl games since '91
Penn State and LSU combined for just one victory against Top 25 opponents
Penn State (10-2) vs. LSU (9-3) Jan. 1, 1:00 p.m. ET, ABC
Reason To Watch: This is a matchup of two ranked teams that combined to go 1-4 against Top 25 opponents. LSU accounted for the lone win... but that was an early victory over 18th-ranked (and sinking) Georgia. So while this looks like a quality game on paper, the reality is that we're still really not sure how good either of these teams really is. The Nittany Lions, especially, were a disappointment, with quarterback Daryll Clark and tailback Evan Royster -- who both had excellent seasons statistically -- unable to recreate the magic from a 2008 campaign that had many experts picking Penn State as the Big Ten's best team this season.
Keep An Eye On: The LSU defense. The fast and physical Tigers were a hard-nosed unit this season, giving up just 16 points per game (12th fewest in the country). That could be a problem for the Nittany Lions' offense, which came up short in its only two outings against elite defenses in 2009 -- embarrassing losses to Iowa and Ohio State. If there's one thing we've learned from bowl seasons past, it's that there can be a big difference in quality between an elite Big Ten defense and an elite SEC defense (cough, cough -- Ohio State, this means you). But the guess here is that with a dearth of talent at receiver and a shaky offensive line, Penn State is likely to struggle for yards against linebacker Kelvin Sheppard and the rest of the Tigers' athletic front seven.
Did You Know?: Don't blame Joe Paterno for the Big Ten's recent bowl woes against the SEC. JoePa is 8-5 against the powerhouse conference in the postseason, with five wins in seven games since 1991.
Final Analysis: Can I call it a pick-'em? This game should be a defensive struggle, and your guess is probably as good as mine -- Vegas favors Penn State by 2.5 -- but after watching the Nittany Lions struggle to even move the ball in against the Hawkeyes and Buckeyes, my gut is telling me to give the nod to LSU ... even though the Tigers scored only three in a loss to Florida, and 15 in a loss to Alabama.
The Pick: LSU 20, Penn State 17. Expect lots of defense and keep an eye on Penn State's All-America defensive tackle Jared Odrick to make some noise in a losing effort.
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