STATE COLLEGE - Happy Valley is in a "New York State of Mind.''
A few days after Billy Joel performed at the Bryce Jordan Center, Penn State kept the theme going when it was announced last evening that the Nittany Lions will play in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Penn State (6-6, 2-6 Big Ten) will face Boston College (7-5, 4-4 ACC) on Dec. 27 at Yankee Stadium in its first postseason appearance since 2011.
"I think there are a lot of unique opportunities that go with this," Penn State coach James Franklin said. "We're looking forward to taking advantage of all of those, but more importantly making sure our guys have a great experience and opportunity to play well."
The Lions, who became eligible for postseason play earlier in the season when the NCAA lifted its sanctions stemming from the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse case, had winning seasons in 2012 and 2013, but were not rewarded with a bowl game.
To replicate a bowl atmosphere that it wasn't supposed to experience for another 2 years, Penn State traveled to Dublin for its season opener. That, combined with a season-ending bowl, has Franklin - and his players - excited.
"You're an 18-, 19-, 20-, 21-year-old young man, and you get to spend a week in Ireland and a week in New York City in the same year. That's pretty cool," Franklin said.
The coach, in his first year at Penn State, said he and other officials, such as athletic director Sandy Barbour, were in frequent discussions and had an idea of what bowls were realistic. He saw the speculation on Twitter that his team would be heading to New York, but found out officially from Barbour.
After leading Vanderbilt to three postseasons trips in as many years as head coach, Langhorne native Franklin is familiar with the bowl process: how to map out practices, travel plans, etc. In fact, Franklin said the staff already uploaded Boston College film to their iPads to start dissecting the Eagles.
Boston College, which defeated Southern Cal earlier this season and nearly upset playoff-bound Florida State in Tallahassee a few weeks back, has a strong rushing attack.
Penn State has an opportunity to earn a winning season against in the bowl game; the Lions haven't had a losing campaign since 2004.
But the upcoming 3 weeks mean more to the program than just preparing for one game. It's preparation for the future.
With an extra game comes 15 additional practice opportunities, and Franklin is looking forward to utilizing them.
Not only will they be to fine-tune the veterans, but also, perhaps more importantly, the sessions will be to get younger players more reps.
"I know how important these practices are on a lot of different levels," Franklin said. "From a program perspective, it's invaluable."
It is, and the Lions have been missing out recently. It seems like it's been a decade since the Lions, a perennial bowl team for years, had a postseason.