ORLANDO, Fla. -- The issue's been talked about for weeks now, ever since it was announced that the Nittany Lions would face LSU in a bowl game.

Actually, it's a point of discussion, it seems, every year when football teams from the supposed bad-weather, brawny Big Ten get together against opponents from the sunny, warm, fast SEC.

They argued over speed before.

And they're doing it again, leading up to the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day.

LSU's young colt of a quarterback, Jordan Jefferson, might have started the latest back-and-forth before the holidays when he talked about how the Tigers needed to ride their speed advantage to success against the Nittany Lions.

And it's just continued from there.

LSU's ammunition begins with tailback/returner Trindon Holliday, an NCAA sprint champion who is a legit threat to score from anywhere on the field.

Russell Shepard lines up everywhere from tailback to receiver to quarterback. And big receivers Brandon LaFell and Terrance Toliver move quite well, too.

"We get tired of it," said Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick. "But we're not really worried about it. (Cornerback) A.J. Wallace is pretty fast. I think I'm pretty fast for playing inside.

"(Tailback Stephfon Green) is pretty fast. It doesn't get much faster than him. I really don't know what you want me to say about that. There's speed everywhere," Odrick said. "We have to play fast no matter who we play."

Actually, the Lions have fared rather well against Southern speed teams in bowl games, defeating Florida State after the 2005 season and Tennessee after the following season. They lost defensive struggles against Florida and Auburn on New Year's Day in 1998 and 2003.

LSU brings plenty of speed and talent, though the Tigers have hit bumps this year because of inexperience and injuries. Jefferson has been sacked a lot and the Tigers are down to their fourth-string tailback.

Penn State's coaches and captains, however, said all the right things about LSU on Wednesday.

"Playing that kind of speed, we have to make sure we take the proper angles on pursuit," said Tom Bradley, the Lions' defensive coordinator. "That's the one thing, you don't get that kind of look from your scout team. The angles are going to change pretty quickly come 1 o'clock on Friday.

"They have great speed at every position," Bradley said. "A lot of times we see that speed, but they're like clones when they come in, it's hard to tell them apart. Except for Holliday, he's a jet. We can't duplicate that in practice."

What the Lions offer in return is a talented trio of linebackers who should be truly healthy for one of the first times this season.

There also is proven speed in the Penn State secondary, though it is young at spots and inconsistent at others.

The Lions also come in with a senior quarterback with a chip on his shoulder.

Daryll Clark can't help but sound perturbed about those who question his ability after big-game losses to Iowa and Ohio State. While he may feel that he, indeed, has something to prove, he was clear to point out that there are more important things at stake.

"I get a lot of questions about my legacy at Penn State and how well I've played in big games. I hear it a ton," he said. "And I think it's unfair to the rest of the team because it begins to be some type of thing where that's the only reason why we're down here playing. And it's not.

"We're not playing for me. ... it's not about individual stats. It's never been about that."

No, it will come down protecting the football on offense and being diligent on special teams and tackling soundly on defense.

Will Odrick and his mates on the defensive line be able to take advantage of the worst quarterback protection in the SEC?

So as the emotion now builds quickly for game day, there will be plenty of incentive to make amends for missed opportunities back in the fall.

This ever-important Penn State senior class would cherish leaving their careers with a satisfying victory over a team from the hyped SEC.

The team that many expect to run right past them.

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