Penn State has made history in bowl games over the years, compiling the second best win percentage among teams with at least 20 appearances and the third most victories. The 1967 Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla., was where Joe Paterno coached in the first of his 37 bowl games.
The Nittany Lions will be in Jacksonville again later this month to prepare for what is now called the TaxSlayer Bowl on Jan. 2 against Georgia. However, coach James Franklin, who was just 4 years old when the Lions played their last Gator Bowl, in 1976, won't be focused on his team's bowl history.
"History is important," Franklin said Thursday before a bowl luncheon in Jacksonville, "but we're focused on today and finding a way to maximize each day in terms of our preparation for this game, and finishing up with recruiting as well.
"We want to come down here and play the game the way it's supposed to be played - blue-collar, hard-nosed, have some fun with some passion and excitement and fly around. What we talk about with our players is, football is different from a lot of sports where, after this bowl game, there's going to be a large percentage of our players that will never play again. To me, that's what's special about bowl games. It keeps your family together."
Penn State (7-5), which will be playing in its 46th bowl, is 28-15-2 in bowl games, a .644 winning percentage, second only to Southern California (.673). Its 28 victories are tied with Georgia and Oklahoma, trailing Alabama and USC.
After a two-year absence because of NCAA sanctions, the Nittany Lions returned to bowl competition last year and defeated Boston College, 31-30, in overtime in the Pinstripe Bowl at Yankee Stadium.
Georgia (9-3) will be coached in the bowl game by wide receivers coach Bryan McClendon after the firing of head coach Mark Richt after 15 seasons. Kirby Smart has been hired as the Bulldogs' new head coach, but he will continue in his job as Alabama defensive coordinator in the College Football Playoffs.
McClendon said the first things he thinks about when he hears the name Penn State are "tradition [and] very hard-nosed guys" who pushed through the sanctions.
"That makes a team very mentally tough," he said. "Teams that are mentally tough are hard to beat because, no matter what, to them they're never down enough and they always have a chance."