Can one of the biggest defensive tackles on the team hit the high notes? He can try.
Ty Lohr, email@example.com
Penn State will try to end one of its most successful runs in program history in Orlando.
The Nittany Lions will attempt to earn their third straight season of double digit victories on New Year’s Day in the Citrus Bowl — something they haven’t accomplished in three decades (1980-82).
Standing in the way will be Kentucky, a surprise 9-3 finisher and Top 15 team from the SEC.
Certainly, this marks a long ride from the summer of 2012, when national analysts predicted that it would take Penn State a decade to recover from NCAA sanctions. A New Year’s Day victory also would lesson the sting of another season that ended so close to so much more.
“When you can do something that’s never been done at Penn State before in the Big Ten era, that’s a pretty strong statement,” coach James Franklin said after the bowl announcement. “We’ve played some pretty good football here for a long time.
“It’s something our senior class can be really proud of. … There’s not a whole lot of teams in the country who have been able to do what we’ve been able to do over the past few years.”
Penn State came into the weekend ranked 12th in the College Football Playoff rankings and eyeing yet another New Year’s Six bowl bid like the Peach in Atlanta. Turns out the Lions just missed.
But at least there’s this: The bowl week weather figures to be warmer and sunnier in Orlando, nearly 450 miles to the southeast.
Last year, Trace McSorley and Sauquon Barkley led the Lions to victory over Washington in their first Fiesta Bowl appearance in 21 years.
The Lions capped their stunning Big Ten Championship run in 2016 by playing in one of the most memorable Rose Bowls, losing to USC on a last-play field goal.
For the past week and more, Penn State seemed on the line between the Peach and Citrus bowls, in part because of last-minute defeats to Ohio State and Michigan State.
The Lions still have never played a bowl game in Atlanta.
They have played in the Citrus four times since joining the Big Ten (after the 1993, ’96, ’02 and ’09 seasons).
Despite those NCAA sanctions, Penn State has earned 14 consecutive winning seasons and has qualified for five bowl games under Franklin.
And the Lions haven’t played No. 14 Kentucky since a bowl meeting after the 1998 season. Then, LaVar Arrington and Penn State’s intimidating defense wrapped up stud quarterback Tim Couch in the second half of an Outback Bowl victory in Tampa.
Here is bowl game ticket information, courtesy of Penn State.