Kentucky vs Penn State
When: 1:00 PM ET, Tuesday, January 1, 2019
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida
Preview for Digital Sports Desk by Gracenote
VRBO CITRUS BOWL STORYLINES
ORLANDO – Penn State had visions of greater success this season while Kentucky has to be thrilled with where it is at as the teams prepare for a VRBO Citrus Bowl matchup New Year’s Day in Orlando, Fla. The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions bounced back from a midseason swoon to win their final three games and hope to send star quarterback Trace McSorley off with a third straight season of 10 wins or more. In their sixth year under coach Mark Stoops and playing in their third consecutive bowl game, the 15th-ranked Wildcats have not won 10 games since 1977.
McSorley is Penn State’s all-time leader in passing yards (9,653), passing touchdowns (75) and completions (703) and needs just 16 rushing yards to become the top quarterback in that category for the Nittany Lions (Michael Robinson had 1,637 between 2002-05). While he’s in the conversation as the best player in program history, the same could be said for one of the men that will be watching his every move – Kentucky senior linebacker Josh Allen, who is fourth among FBS players with 14 sacks and tied for first with five forced fumbles. The SEC Defensive Player of the Year has been cleaning up the postseason awards and announced he would play in the Citrus Bowl after some speculation he may skip it to focus on the NFL.
Wildcats running back Benny Snell Jr., a junior, announced that he would forgo his senior season and enter the NFL draft, but in the same announcement indicated he will play in the Citrus Bowl. The SEC’s second-leading rusher with 1,305 yards, Snell has been held to just 49 yards on 13 carries through his first two bowl games. The Nittany Lions can match Kentucky on the ground behind McSorley and junior running back Miles Sanders, who was second in the Big Ten with 1,223 yards – 375 over the final three games.
TV: 1 p.m. ET, ABC. LINE: Penn State -6.5
ABOUT KENTUCKY (9-3, 5-3 SEC): The Wildcats rank 115th with an average of 164.8 passing yards per game, but sophomore starter Terry Wilson averaged 209.4 while throwing seven TDs over the final five games. “Early in the season, some of my decisions weren’t quite there and weren’t the best,” Wilson recently told reporters. “Middle of the season I was a little hesitant, but I feel like these past four or five weeks I’ve been trusting myself and trusting where everybody’s going to be at and trusting the o-line and trusting the play calling that’s being called.” Wilson accounted for four scores – one on the ground – in the 56-10 win over rival Louisville to end the regular season and has gained more than 50 rushing yards on five occasions.
ABOUT PENN STATE (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten): McSorley was not the most heralded recruit but he already has the most wins for a quarterback in school history with 31 and getting one more before moving on is all he can think about. “That’d be huge. Obviously, for our team, that’s our goal,” McSorley told reporters when asked about getting a 10th victory. “It’s hard to win 10 games two years in a row, but it’s harder to do it three years. I mean, if you look at teams that can do that, it’s Alabama, Ohio State, Clemson – those programs that are always at the top. So, if we can do that, I think that it puts us in a really good spot for the future and it’s something that is a testament to all the hard work that we put in this year.” The Nittany Lions allowed a total of 20 points in the three-game winning streak to end the regular season and they are tied for third among FBS teams with 43 sacks, including six over the last six games by emerging sophomore defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos.