One of the New Year’s Day bowls is the Outback Bowl. This bowl game is between the SEC and Big 10’s conferences. This year’s game will feature the Big 10’s Penn State Nittany Lions. The SEC will be represented by Arkansas Razorbacks. This will be the first time in both programs’ history that they will play each other. The game has been at Raymond James Stadium since 1996. It was previously called the Hall of Fame Bowl. Outback Steakhouse took over the sponsorship in 1996. One of the cool aspects of the game is that Outback gives out either a free appetizer of coconut shrimp or bloomin onion. If the Big 10 team wins then it’s shrimp and if the SEC wins, it’s a bloomin onion. It’s also fun to see both teams’ fans travel down to Tampa. I attended the game as a fan in 2003.
The Penn State Nittany Lions come into the Outback Bowl with a 7-5 record. The Nittany Lions come from the East side of the Big 10. The Michigan Wolverines won that side of the conference and went on to win the conference championship. Head coach James Franklin had everyone buzzing about them when the season started. The season started great for the Nittany Lions at 5-0. Then they hit a buzz saw losing three straight games. The first one came to the Iowa Hawkeyes who went on to play the Wolverines in the conference championship game. The game that shocked everybody came at the hands of the Illinois Illini. They would only win two games to end the season. Their last game would be a loss to the Michigan State Spartans. They now focus on the Outback Bowl.
The Arkansas Razorbacks come into the Outback Bowl with an 8-4 record. The Razorbacks were a surprise team in the SEC. Arkansas had a similar start to their season as well starting 4-0. Just like their opponent, they also hit a three-game losing streak after their fast start. But after that, they would win their next four. The Razorbacks’ final loss came to the Alabama Crimson Tide. They only lost by seven points which was closer than many expected. Arkansas was nearly unbeatable at home going 6-1. The only loss came against the Auburn Tigers. Head coach Sam Pittman has the team buzzing. Arkansas was 4-4 in the conference and like Penn State, didn’t play in their conference championship. Only the Ole Miss Rebels and Alabama Crimson Tide finished in front of them in the SEC West. Like Penn State, they are looking forward to the Outback Bowl.
I think that Outback Bowl will be an exciting game. Both teams are coming in with good records. Penn State and Arkansas made impacts in their respective conferences. It will be a cool way to start 2022. I can see fans from both teams to be in the stands. I covered the 2020 Outback Bowl between Minnesota Golden Gophers and Auburn Tigers. For that game, the Minnesota fans outnumbered the Auburn fans. I can see this bowl may be in the future being a playoff game bowl game as the committee extends the number of teams. It will come down to the players on the field and the battle between James Franklin and Sam Pittman. The winner of the game will cap off their season in good shape. On the other hand, the team that loses the game will not hurt them moving into the 2022 season.