Penn State has been a college football power for the last 50 years but their success reaches back over 100 years. Their first bowl appearance was in the 1922 Rose Bowl where they lost to USC. Despite starting their bowl history out with a loss the Nittany Lions have been very successful in the bowl games, compiling an all-time record of 27-15-2. On top of the 27 bowl wins, Penn State has been crowned consensus National Champions twice.
Football had been played at Penn State for over 75 years before Joe Paterno became the head coach, his reign as head coach brought them to a new level of success. Joe Paterno’s tenure as coach began in 1966 and would span six decades. In total he would spend 62 years working as a coach at Penn State. His presence would be immediately felt. From 31 seasons, from 1968 to 1999, Penn State made a bowl game every year except 1970 and 1984. In that span they would win three Orange Bowls, six Fiesta Bowls, two Cotton Bowls, and one Sugar Bowl. Penn State won the 1982 National Championship after defeating Georgia and won again in 1986 when the Nittany Lions upset the favored Miami Hurricanes in the Fiesta Bowl. That bowl game was, and still is, the most watched in college football history. Miami came into the game favored and looked nearly unbeatable. Penn State’s defense however slowed Heisman winner Vinny Testaverde and intercepted him five times with one coming in the endzone on Miami’s final attempt of the game to retake the lead. The Nittany Lions won 14-10 securing their second National Title. In the early 2000’s Penn State wasn’t having its usual success but things did turn around with the Nittany Lions earning a trip to the Orange Bowl in 2005 and the Rose Bowl in 2008.
Bill O’Brien took over as head coach in 2012 and led the team to a 8-4 record in his first season, surpassing most preseason expectations of the team. After his second season as coach, which ended with a 7-5 record, O’Brien took the head coaching job for the Houston Texans. Vanderbilt’s James Franklin was hired to replace him as coach and shortly into the 2014 season, Penn State’s bowl ban was lifted making them bowl eligible for the first time since the 2011 season.