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December 27, 2007
Alamo Bowl: Penn State vs. Texas A&M
WHERE: Alamodome, San Antonio.
WEATHER: Domed stadium.
TV: ESPN (Chris Fowler will do play-by-play, with Doug Flutie and Craig James as analysts).
THE LINE: Penn State by 5.5.
RECORDS VS. BOWL TEAMS: Penn State 3-4, Texas A&M 3-4.
RECORD VS. BCS TOP 25: Penn State 1-2, Texas A&M 1-3.
BCS RANK: Penn State 33rd, Texas A&M N/A.
SCHEDULE STRENGTH: Penn State 40th, Texas A&M second.
COACHES: Penn State - Joe Paterno (22-10-1 in bowls); Texas A&M - Gary Darnell (interim; 0-1 in bowls).
WHY YOU SHOULD WATCH: It's Paterno on the sideline in a bowl, and how many more times is that going to happen?
KEY STATS: Penn State is No. 6 nationally in rush defense at 87.9 yards per game. Texas A&M is No. 12 nationally in rush offense at 215.6 yards per game.
KEEP AN EYE ON: Penn State senior QB Anthony Morelli has a ton of physical tools, but - for whatever reason - his production hasn't been all that great in his career. A&M's pass defense has been awful, so is a big game in the offing for Morelli?
A&M coach Dennis Franchione already is gone, replaced by Houston Texans offensive coordinator Mike Sherman. But Darnell – who was Franchione's defensive coordinator – will be the Aggies' head man for the bowl game.
This is Paterno's 500th game and 34th bowl as a head coach. It's the second bowl for Darnell, and both have come while he was an interim coach. He coached Florida in the 1989 Freedom Bowl after taking over in midseason from Galen Hall, for whom he had served as defensive coordinator. Darnell actually was the last head coach for Florida before it hired Steve Spurrier.
Ironically, Hall is Penn State's offensive coordinator now. He and Darnell remain friends, and Darnell even joked this week about their relationship. When asked about what he expected from Penn State's offense in the Alamo Bowl, Darnell responded, "Galen Hall has not told me yet. But he's going to get asked again."
Darnell also noted that the opponent (Washington) the last time he was the head coach in a bowl went on to win a portion of the national championship the next season. "I guess Coach Paterno will be getting excited" by that, Darnell joked.
Is there any extra motivation for Darnell coaching against Paterno?
"It's not extra motivation but it's … a satisfying feeling, you know," he said. "If this would be my last football game to coach in, boy, what a great thing to be able to coach against Joe Paterno and in that environment."
The Alamo Bowl will conclude Paterno's 58th season at Penn State. He was hired as an assistant to Rip Engle in 1950, then became coach in 1966. He said again this week that retirement hasn't crossed his mind.
"I don't think about that," he said. "I just thank the good Lord that I'm able to stay this long. The profession we're in, you have to understand that they love you one day and two days later they don't. To be able to survive this long I think is a credit to the institution more than it is to me."
Mike Huguenin is the college sports editor for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.