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Outback Roundtable

I got an email yesterday from the blogger at Corn from a Jar, a Tennessee Volunteer blog. He has some questions for some of us Penn State bloggers, so enjoy and feel free to weigh in.

Rose, Sugar, Orange ... Outback? While it is certainly the premier steakhouse-themed bowl, the game in Tampa is probably not most teams' pre-season goal. That being said, as a Penn State fan and blogger, on a scale from crushing disappointment to overwhelming glee, what is your reaction to playing in this game? Also, what is the fan base at large's feeling about accepting a bowl bid that comes with a side of bloomin' onion?

I think there is some disappointment according to my gauge of fan sentiment. Penn State fans had some big expectations coming off an 11-1 season in 2005. But we had some tough losses this year to Notre Dame, Ohio State, Michigan, and Wisconsin. Overall I think there is a frustration among the fans that we can't seem to beat these elite teams on a regular basis. But now the season is over and I get a sense that Nittany Lion fans are reflecting on our situation and we're generally satisfied that we didn't see the drastic fall from grace we saw in 2000-2001 and 2003-2004. Overall, Penn State fans are still optimistic that 2007 and 2008 are going to be special years.

Tennessee and Penn State last played in the Citrus Bowl following the 1993 season. Since then, both teams have had an undefeated season and both teams have had at least one losing season. Where is your program now as opposed to where it was then? Are things better, worse, or about the same as when these two teams last played? Not looking for a summary of the last 13 years, but rather an overall feeling of the program now compared to then.

I think we're on an equal level to where we were in 1993. Changes were made to the program after the disasterous stretch of seasons from 2000 to 2004. The past two years we have recruited extremely well and we've had back to back winning seasons, so I would say we're back to where we were in the 80's and 90's where we competed for a National Championship once every three or four years.

Now that we know how you feel about your own program, let's look at the other side of the coin. As a Penn State fan, what do you think of when you hear "Volunteers"? Does this opponent strike fear in you heart, or barely cause a blip on the radar?

I think we're good enough that no teams strikes fear in our hearts. Our defense is tough and physical and will keep us in any game giving us a chance to win.

When I think of the Volunteers I think great team speed and big plays. The media tells us the SEC is the fastest league in college football. I'm not sure how much that is true and how much of that is hype. The Big Ten has some fast teams too. We've played against Ted Ginn and Troy Smith and contained them pretty well. Last year we were told Penn State would struggle against Florida State and their "southern speed". We did pretty well in that game. We have some fast players of our own in Derrick Williams and Justin King. But the strength of our team is the physical defense. You can't run fast when you're on your butt. I don't care who you are.