High-profile coaches and winning traditions landed Florida and Penn State a better-than-expected bowl destination.

The Outback Bowl passed over South Carolina, Mississippi State and Iowa to select teams they beat during the regular season, setting up a New Year's Day matchup of disappointing teams that began the season ranked.

The Gators (7-5) lost five of their final eight games, but got the nod over the Gamecocks (9-4) and the Bulldogs (8-4) from the Southeastern Conference. Both teams beat Florida in the regular season.

"We are excited to hear that we are going to the Outback Bowl and play in another New Year's Day game," Florida coach Urban Meyer said. "We are proud of our history of playing in January bowl games. Not everyone gets to enjoy that experience. We've been fortunate around here to be in a bowl game for 20 consecutive years and I've told our players and staff to not take that for granted.

"This is a tremendous opportunity to continue to grow and develop as a football team."

The Nittany Lions (7-5) lost two of their last three, but were picked ahead of the Hawkeyes (7-5) from the Big Ten. Iowa beat Penn State in October, but dropped its final three games.

"This team has worked hard all season and has been a great group to work with," Penn State coach Joe Paterno said. "I'm happy for the squad that their efforts will be rewarded with an opportunity to go to the Outback Bowl, where we have had some wonderful experiences and be involved in a good, tough game."

The Gators will be playing in a bowl game for the 20th consecutive season, the second-longest streak in the nation. It's their fourth trip to the Outback Bowl, which will be played Jan. 1 at Raymond James Stadium.

Penn State also will be making its fourth Outback appearance. The Nittany Lions last played in the game against Tennessee in 2007. Florida faced Iowa in the 2006 Outback Bowl.

The Gators and Nittany Lions have met twice before. Florida beat Penn State 17-7 in the 1962 Gator Bowl and defeated the Nittany Lions 21-6 in the Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 1998.

"When you talk about tradition and history of college football, it just doesn't get any better than Penn State and the University of Florida," Outback Bowl president Jim McVay said. "It's our 25th anniversary game and we can't think of a better way to celebrate it on New Year's Day than with Coach Paterno's Nittany Lions and Coach Urban Meyer's Gators."

(Copyright ©2014 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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