Friday December 31st, 2010

Penn State (7-5) vs. Florida (7-5) Jan. 1, 1 p.m. ET (ABC)

Reason to watch: The Outback Bowl will be Urban Meyer's final game at Florida after six seasons, two SEC titles and two national titles. Even more amazing, Penn State's Joe Paterno, 84, seems awfully confident it won't be his final game coaching the Nittany Lions. This juxtaposition actually added a nice moment of levity to the press conference when Meyer announced his resignation earlier this month. The Orlando Sentinel's Mike Bianchi asked Meyer if he had ever imagined a scenario where he'd be coaching against Paterno and Meyer would be the one retiring. Meyer, who had been on the verge of tears moments earlier, cracked up when he heard the question.

Keep an eye on: The quarterbacks. The reason Penn State's offense improved as the season progressed and Florida's didn't is because the Nittany Lions found the guy who gave them the best chance to win. Former walk-on Matt McGloin has thrown for 1,337 yards with 13 touchdowns and just four interceptions since the Minnesota game, when he relieved freshman Rob Bolden, who had been knocked out by a concussion. Meanwhile, Florida never settled on a quarterback. John Brantley is a pro-style passer who never fit Meyer's spread offense. Trey Burton is a dynamic athlete who works best in wildcat packages and is so versatile that he might serve the Gators better shuttling between the other 700 positions he plays in Florida's offense. (Seriously, it would only be a little shocking if he lines up at tackle someday.) Jordan Reed is a sometime tight end with a cannon arm who hasn't taken many meaningful snaps.

Did you know: Paterno is 8-4 against SEC teams in bowl games and 24-11-1 all-time in bowls. Including the two bowl games he coached in at Utah, Meyer is 6-1 all-time in bowls.

Final analysis: Florida will be without cornerback Janoris Jenkins (shoulder), which should make life easier for McGloin and the Penn State offense. With Florida's defensive line banged up, Penn State also may be able to do some damage with backs Evan Royster and Silas Redd. Florida is more of a mystery, especially considering the fact that Brantley has said he'll consider all his options -- including a transfer -- after the bowl. If Florida has a semblance of a coherent offense built around a particular quarterback, the Gators might send out Meyer with a win. If they trot out the same disjointed scheme last seen getting throttled by Florida State, it could get ugly.

The pick: Penn State 24, Florida 10 NFL draft analyst Tony Pauline shares his thoughts on the top pro prospects in this matchup:

Florida: T Marcus Gilbert -- Gilbert will be the top pro prospect on the field for the Gators by virtue of the fact that a shoulder injury will sideline highly rated cornerback Janoris Jenkins. Gilbert is an athletic blocker with the skill, strength and footwork to line up at either tackle spot. His senior season was slightly disappointing, but scouts love Gilbert's upside. Grade: Second- to third-round prospect.

Penn State: C Stefen Wisniewski -- Wisniewski is another highly rated blocker well liked by scouts. He's a blue-collar lineman who works hard and plays with a high degree of intelligence. Wisniewski is graded as the top center in next April's draft. Grade: Third-round prospect.

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