Penn State Preview: Outback Bowl vs. Arkansas

(Photo by Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

For one final time for the 2021 season, we’ll tell you what to expect, what to keep an eye on, and where and when you can catch the Nittany Lions as they face the Arkansas Razorbacks in the Outback Bowl.

Game Details: Penn State vs. No. 21 Arkansas. Noon ET on Jan. 1. ESPN2.

Venue: Raymond James Stadium (Tampa, FL).

Weather Forecast (via AccuWeather): High of 69 with some overcast. 25 percent chance of rain.

The Line: Penn State -2 (via Action Network).

All-Time Series: This is the first-ever meeting between Penn State and Arkansas.

Last Meeting: N/A

Last Time Out: Penn State fell on the road at Michigan State, 30-27. Arkansas defeated Missouri, 34-17.

Throwback Classic: 2006. Penn State hasn’t played Arkansas before, but the Nittany Lions have played at the Outback Bowl four times before. The most recent win for Penn State down in Tampa was the 2006-2007 season, a 20-10 victory over Tennessee. Tony Hunt was named the game’s MVP, while the Nittany Lions used a Tony Davis 88-yard fumble return for touchdown to pull ahead in the fourth quarter.

Penn State vs. Tennessee 2007. Photo via Getty Images

Other Big Ten Bowl Games
– Guaranteed Rate Bowl: Minnesota vs. West Virginia (Dec. 28 at 10:15 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– New Era Pinstripe Bowl: Maryland vs. Virginia Tech (Dec. 29 at 2:15 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Music City Bowl: Purdue vs. Tennessee (Dec. 30 at 3 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl: No. 10 Michigan State vs. No. 12 Pitt (Dec. 30 at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Las Vegas Bowl: Wisconsin vs. Arizona State (Dec. 30 at 10:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– Capital One Orange Bowl: No. 2 Michigan vs. No. 3 Georgia (Dec. 31 at 7:30 p.m. ET. ESPN)
– VRBO Citrus Bowl: No. 17 Iowa vs. No. 25 Kentucky (Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. ET. ABC)
– Rose Bowl: No. 6 Ohio State vs. No. 11 Utah (Jan. 1 at 4 p.m. ET. ESPN)

The Lead: Penn State will play in its 51st bowl game in program history against an opponent it has yet to face on the gridiron. Penn State is tied for fifth nationally with 30 bowl victories and No. 7 in bowl winning percentage with a 30-18-2 post-season record (62.0) among schools with at least 20 postseason appearances. Penn State is making its fifth Outback Bowl appearance with the last coming in the 2010 season, a 37-24 loss to Florida.

Penn State Wins If: The offense puts it all together. This hasn’t happened in quite a while for the Nittany Lions. Maybe since the first half of the loss to Iowa. Hopefully a completely healthy Sean Clifford and additional practice time will lead to a more consistent offensive performance. We’ve seen glimpses of great play all season, but have yet to see that wire-to-wire showing. As good as the Penn State defense has been this year, the Nittany Lions are going to need the offense to step up to beat an Arkansas team with a really potent rushing attack. A rejuvenated rushing attack and a healthy dose of Parker Washington (as Jahan Dotson has announced he will skip the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft) is needed.

Arkansas Wins If: The Razorbacks can control both lines of scrimmage. Arkansas has won four of its last five games, with the lone loss coming in a tight defeat at No. 1 Alabama. Sophomore quarterback KJ Jefferson is as dangerous with his legs as he is with his arm. If the Razorbacks win on defense with their three-man front and get home against a struggling Penn State offensive line, it could be a long day for the Nittany Lions. Head coach Sam Pittman has done a tremendous job with this program in just is second season in Fayetteville. Arkansas will play inspired football in search of its ninth win of the season.

Keep An Eye On: Parker Washington. As mentioned above, Jahan Dotson will skip the Outback Bowl to focus on his preparation for the NFL draft. Who steps up at wideout will be a big question mark for the Nittany Lions. Parker Washington was a good No. 2 option for Sean Clifford this season and will need to take on the role as lead receiver against the Razorbacks. Dotson has been nothing short of special this year, and frankly it’s a joke he wasn’t a unanimous Big Ten All-First Team selection. Penn State is 7-5, but without him in the lineup I’m not sure the Nittany Lions even get to a bowl game.

(Photo By Steve Manuel/The Football Letter)

Trivia Tidbit: The Nittany Lions are 24-23 all-time against current SEC schools, having played 11 of the 14 teams in the league. The most recent meeting with an SEC team was a home win over Auburn, 28-20, on Sept. 18 this season. Arkansas also played Auburn earlier this season, but fell to the Tigers, 38-23.

Numbers To Know:
1. Penn State is No. 1 in the Big Ten in red zone defense (66.7; 4th nationally).
8. Arkansas secured its first 8-win season since 2011 with the regular season finale thumping of Missouri.

Honoring John Black: If you haven’t already, be sure to read our story on John Black’s lifelong service to Penn State as 2021 marks his final season covering Penn State football. Click here to read.

Alumni Association At The Outback Bowl: We’ll have plenty of activity and coverage down in Tampa. Visit our Outback Bowl landing page for all the info.

Predictions:
John Patishnock: Penn State 31, Arkansas 30
Vincent Lungaro: Penn State 27, Arkansas 24

3 thoughts on “Penn State Preview: Outback Bowl vs. Arkansas

  1. I was surprised to read your comment that Penn State would win if…a healthy dose of Jahan Dotson??? He opted out yesterday??
    Maybe I misread it.
    Otherwise, thank you for the entire season worth of letters.
    John McKee
    Ocean City, NJ

    • You are correct. At the time of writing this Jahan had not opted out. I updated the story now to reflect that. Thank you for reading! We Are

  2. Too many players choosing to sit-out the game to have any true showing of traditional PSU pride. I only hope the remaining members of the team can muster up and provide a respectable and competitive Nittany Lion style performance.

    JD

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