TAMPA — This afternoon, the Arkansas Razorbacks and Penn State Nittany Lions will board buses and head south for an afternoon on the beach.
The beaches are beautiful, much like Destin, Fla, but bigger. The temperature of the water, 69 degrees, should mean there will be little swimming.
It is the last social event of the Outback Bowl, which has rolled out the red carpet for both teams.
Starting with dinner this evening, it will be 100 percent bowl preparation. Both teams came here with the same goal: to finish the season with a win.
At every news conference players and coaches have said they are as serious about this game as any they played this season.
Grant Morgan proclaimed it, “My National Championship game.”
There’s no need to go through it again. The Razorbacks have gone through the toughest patch over the last five years in modern history.
Last season, at 3-7, they were invited to the Texas Bowl, but that disappeared when the bowl was cancelled because TCU opted out. Now, here are the Hogs, 8-4, and in a premiere New Year’s Day bowl, the first game of the New Year.
They prepared in Fayetteville and they have prepared here.
Everyone, from the coaches to the players to the media, are ready for game day because that’s why everyone came to this oasis.
The winner will be the team that made the most adjustments after starters opted out on both teams.
Sam Pittman called it — these are different teams than they were in the regular season and when they take the field at 11 a.m. Saturday morning, both will go out to prove they belonged here.