Game Preview: Penn State vs. Kentucky
The VRBO Citrus Bowl is one of the premier bowl games in college football. Landing right on New Year’s Day 2019, the game is not considered a prime New Year’s Six game although it might as well be due to its prime television slot and date. For the 2019 iteration of this game, two teams will meet for the first time since 1999 as the No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions take on the No. 14 ranked Kentucky Wildcats.
For James Franklin's Nittany Lions, this is the chance for one last ride off into the sunset with fifth-year quarterback Trace McSorley playing his last game in Blue and White. Penn State comes into this matchup against the Wildcats riding a hot three-game winning streak, including a dominating 38-3 win over the Maryland Terrapins at Beaver Stadium, a game that was possibly Penn State’s most complete and dominating performance of the year.
Penn State's offense is extremely run heavy with the dangerous rushing duo of McSorley and star running back Miles Sanders. Sanders currently has 1,223 rushing yards to go along with nine rushing touchdowns on the year. Meanwhile, McSorley has 723 rushing yards on the year with 11 rushing touchdowns as well.
McSorley can also air it out as well with 2,284 passing yards and 16 passing touchdowns this season. The majority of the Pen State passing attack runs through speedy wide receiver KJ Hamler and true freshman tight end Pat Freiermuth.
On the other side of the ball, Penn State features a fearsome defense, led by a dangerous defensive end duo of Yetur Gross-Matos and Shareef Miller, who are both excellent at rushing the passer and stuffing the run. Behind them is talented freshman linebacker in Micah Parsons and the secondary features heavily experienced players with Amani Oruwariye, Nick Scott and Garrett Taylor roaming deep.
Meanwhile, Mark Stoops' Kentucky Wildcats are going to their third straight bowl game with a 0-2 record in their last two postseason appearances. The Wildcats will no doubt be looking to turn things around. Almost their entire offense revolves around star running back Benny Snell Jr., who is one of the best backs in all of college football. Snell currently has 1,305 rushing yards in addition to 14 rushing scores on the season.
Kentucky also features an incredibly dangerous defense, ranking 21st in total defense statistics in college football. The strength of its defense comes from one of the best defenders in all of college football, outside linebacker Josh Allen. A heavily underrecruited linebacker from Montclair, NJ, Allen has been unstoppable this season with 84 total tackles, 14 sacks, five forced fumbles and perfect pass coverage stats. Allen garnered numerous awards for his performance this season, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and the SEC Defensive Player of the Year.
At the end of the day Kentucky and Penn State matchup very well in what should be a heavily defensive and run heavy matchup. For the Wildcats, Allen’s production against Penn State's shaky offensive line will be huge. Penn State's best offensive lineman, Ryan Bates, will no doubt have his hands full.
Getting Snell Jr. going against a tough Penn State run defense will also be big for Kentucky. Meanwhile, Penn State will look to establish the run early and hopefully get McSorley in a groove passing the ball. At the end of the day, Penn State’s experience and superior depth will win the Nittany Lions the Citrus Bowl 28-21.
David Saggio is a freshman majoring in broadcast journalism. To contact him email firstname.lastname@example.org.