TAMPA — The Outback Bowl will have a couple of firsts this season.
Penn State (7-5) and Arkansas (8-4, College Football Playoff No. 21), who have never faced each other, will meet in the Jan. 1 game at Raymond James Stadium (noon, ESPN2). The Razorbacks also are making their first appearance in the bowl.
“I’m so proud of everything our team has done to this point to earn a trip to the Outback Bowl,” second-year Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said. “Playing in a marquee bowl game on Jan. 1 in Florida is an incredible accomplishment for our program and our fans.”
Arkansas, which finished 22nd in the final Associated Press top 25 — two years removed from one of the worst seasons in its history when the Hogs went winless in SEC play — was especially appreciative to be playing on New Year’s Day.
“Our program has not played in a Florida-based bowl in 15 years and haven’t played on New Year’s Day in 13 years,” vice chancellor/director of athletics Hunter Yurachek said. “All of this speaks to the hard work and dedication Coach Pittman, his staff and our student-athletes have put in to get us back to this point.”
The Nittany Lions will have a bit of history on their side. The Razorbacks have gone 0-4 against Big Ten teams in bowls. Penn State has a 3-1 Outback record, dropping its last appearance there to Florida, 37-24 on Jan. 1, 2011.
“Tampa Bay is a great destination for our loyal fan base, and we know they will be there in full force to help send this special group of seniors off on a high note,” said Penn State coach James Franklin, who is making his first Outback trip. Joe Paterno coached the Nittany Lions’ previous four trips to Tampa.