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Penn State invited to Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl, will face Georgia

Penn State accepted an invitation Sunday to participate in the Jan. 2 TaxSlayer Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., where it will take on Georgia.

While Penn State answered one question Sunday by accepting a bid to the TaxSlayer Bowl for a matchup against Georgia, it - in the person of head coach James Franklin - responded to another question about whether a new offensive coordinator will be in place by the time the game is played on Jan. 2 in Jacksonville, Fla.

"I hope to have the position filled in the next week-and-a-half to two weeks or so," Franklin said Sunday night on a conference call. "We'll just kind of see how the process plays out. That person probably will come on and spend that time evaluating our players, evaluating our staff, and being able to have some input."

Franklin is seeking a successor to John Donovan, his offensive coordinator for two seasons at Penn State and three years before that at Vanderbilt, who was fired on Nov. 29.

Even if a new offensive coordinator is hired, quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne will serve in that role in preparation for the TaxSlayer Bowl. While Franklin called it "a great opportunity and a great experience" for Rahne to install a game plan and call a game, he said Rahne was not a candidate for the permanent job.

"I've been with him for a long time and I think he's an up-and-coming coach who's got a tremendous career ahead of him," he said. "But at this point, I think the best interest for our players and our program is to hire a guy who's been calling plays and been successful for a number of years."

Franklin didn't tip his hand on what he's seeking in a coordinator, but he did say he'd consider "a guy from the NFL . . . or major college football . . . or a head coach." He said his phone has been "ringing off the hook" with potential candidates, and that there have been conversations going on.

"All those things are happening right now - conversations, doing some statistical analysis, then obviously looking at finding a time and a place to be able to sit down in person and work through some of these things," he said. "So that process has been ongoing since we made this decision."

Franklin added that if the process to identify a new coordinator takes longer than two weeks, "then I'm perfectly comfortable with taking that time to make sure we get it right."

The Bulldogs this season went 9-3 but posted a disappointing 5-3 mark in the SEC East, a finish that cost coach Mark Richt his job after 15 seasons. Wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon will serve as interim head coach for the bowl while newly hired head coach Kirby Smart will stay with Alabama, where he is defensive coordinator, through the College Football Playoff.

"We're just so excited, such a historic bowl game and a historic program," Franklin said. "I've got tremendous respect for coach McClendon and everything he's done in his career. Our guys are excited."

The 46th bowl appearance in Penn State history also marks the team's second all-time meeting against Georgia. The first one was memorable: the Nittany Lions' 27-23 victory over Georgia in the 1983 Sugar Bowl that gave them their first national championship.