Citrus Bowl: No. 14 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Penn State
When: 1 p.m. Tuesday
Where: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Fla.
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Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1 (for UK Network broadcast); WLXG-AM 1300, WLXG-FM 92.5 (for ESPN Radio broadcast); XM Channel 80, Sirius Channel 80
Records: Kentucky (9-3, 5-3 SEC); Penn State (9-3, 6-3 Big Ten)
Series: Penn State leads 3-2
Last meeting: Penn State beat Kentucky 26-14, on Jan. 1, 1999, in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Favorite: Penn State is favored by 6.5 points
The story line
Kentucky seeks to win a New Year’s Day bowl for the first time since the 1952 Cotton Bowl (a 20-7 victory over TCU that followed the 1951 season). The 2018 Wildcats are bidding to be only the third team in school history to reach 10 wins in a season (11-1 in 1950, 10-1 in 1977) and are looking to break UK’s four-game bowl losing streak.
The big threat
Penn State’s Trace McSorley epitomizes the dual-threat quarterbacks that have given Kentucky defenses fits across the years. As a senior, the 6-foot, 201-pound product of Ashburn, Va., has run for 723 yards and 11 touchdowns and thrown for 2,254 yards and 16 TDs for Coach James Franklin’s Nittany Lions. Having completed only 53.4 percent of his passes and thrown six interceptions, McSorley has struggled with accuracy this season in the passing game. Nevertheless, he has a “find a way” quality that has made him the winningest (31-8) starting quarterback in Penn State history.
On the spot
Kentucky’s biggest stars. In what will be his final college game before he enters the 2019 NFL Draft, UK junior running back Benny Snell needs 107 yards to pass Sonny Collins (3,835 yards) and become the Wildcats’ career rushing leader. Meanwhile, after Kentucky star outside linebacker/rush end Josh Allen spent December reaping one national award after another for his stellar 2018 season, many neutral fans could be sampling the Citrus Bowl to see if the UK senior backs up his many accolades.
Hangs in the balance. Offensive struggles in the second half of the SEC season and a dispiriting loss to a highly mediocre Tennessee team in the 10th week robbed some of the joy from the Big Blue Nation for one of the best Kentucky football seasons ever. For UK Coach Mark Stoops and his troops, earning a 10th win with an impressive showing against an old-line football power such as Penn State would win back the good feeling that was lost in Knoxville and earn the current UK team an enduring place in Wildcats football lore.