ORLANDO, FLA., DEC. 31 -- Penn State's reign as national champion officially comes to an end Friday with the injury-riddled Nittany Lions battling Clemson in the 42nd Florida Citrus Bowl.
Out of contention for No. 1 on New Year's Day for the first time in three years, Penn State will carry an 8-3 record and No. 20 ranking into the noon game (WJLA-TV-7, WJZ-TV-13). Clemson, the Atlantic Coast Conference champion, is 9-2 and ranked 14th.
Penn State, making its 19th postseason appearance in 22 seasons under Coach Joe Paterno, won its second national championship in five years by beating Miami, 14-10, in the Fiesta Bowl on Jan. 2, 1987.
To beat Clemson, Penn State will have to do what it has done all season -- overcome a string of injuries.
Blair Thomas, Penn State's leading rusher and receiver, will miss the game with a sprained right knee he sustained during a workout three weeks ago. Freshmen Gary Brown and Leroy Thompson will replace him. Wide receiver Ray Roundtree, who averaged 24.8 yards per reception on 14 catches and scored five touchdowns, also is out with a knee injury.
Clemson enters the game in relatively good physical shape and hungry for the type of attention a victory over Penn State could bring. "I think it's a great opportunity for us to go out and maybe gain a little respect nationally," said Tigers quarterback Rodney Williams.