See Former Penn State players lead current players through the Homecoming gauntlet before the game against Michigan State, October 13, 2018.
Cameron Clark, York Daily Record
Penn State has a chance to reach another program milestone under James Franklin in its New Year’s Day adventure against Kentucky.
It’s been 30 years since the Nittany Lions have won 10 or more games in three straight seasons.
They can do it again with a victory in the Citrus Bowl.
The headline story will be one underrated but imposing defense banging heads with another.
The Kentucky Wildcats are No. 8 nationally in scoring defense, giving up only 16.3 points per game. They feature the top defensive player in the nation, linebacker Josh Allen.
And, yes, Kentucky accomplished that in the powerful SEC.
The Lions are 20th nationally (20 points per game) and should be at their best on defense because of their growing young talent. Defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and linebacker Micah Parsons figure to be national stars next season.
Kentucky may have to win exclusively with defense, though. They like to ride their bull of running back, Benny Snell. They don’t offer much pop elsewhere.
Despite their breakthrough 9-3 season and Top 15 ranking, the Wildcats struggle to score points and rank only 100th in total offense.
And that’s where this bowl game figures to turn.
Penn State, for all of its problems throwing the football — and keeping quarterback Trace McSorley healthy — still own many more possibilities at success.
And they have the necessary motivation.
This could be the last game in a Penn State uniform for McSorley and multiple underclassmen who may leave early for the NFL. From defensive end Shareef Miller to running back Miles Sanders to offensive linemen Ryan Bates and Connor McGovern.
They want to go out the right way.
Here are some tidbits to get you ready for the New Year’s Day showdown in what they call Camping World Stadium:
How to watch
Weather: Partly cloudy skies. High of 72. Winds 5-10 mph.
Rankings:Penn State is No. 12 in the final College Football Playoff Rankings. Kentucky is 14th.
Series: Penn State leads 3-2 with the last meeting a 26-14 victory in the Outback Bowl following the 1998 season. The teams split a four-game series from 1975-78.
Betting line: Penn State is a 6-point favorite.
Recent PSU/Kentucky coverage
About Penn State
Last three seasons
- 2018: 9-3 (6-3 Big Ten)
- 2017: 11-2 (7-2 Big Ten)
- 2016: 11-3 (8-1 Big Ten)
- Sept. 1 vs. Appalachian State: W, 45-38 (OT)
- Sept. 8 at Pittsburgh: W, 51-6
- Sept. 15 vs. Kent State: W, 63-10
- Sept. 21 at Illinois: W, 63-24
- Sept. 29 vs. Ohio State: L, 28-27
- Oct. 13 vs. Michigan State: L, 21-17
- Oct. 20 at Indiana: W, 33-28
- Oct. 27 vs. Iowa: W, 30-24
- Nov. 3 at Michigan: L, 42-7
- Nov. 10 vs. Wisconsin: W, 22-10
- Nov. 17 at Rutgers: W, 20-7
- Nov. 24 vs. Maryland, W, 38-3
Top performers in 2018
- Sr. QB Trace McSorley (175-for-328, 2284 yards, 16 TD, 6 INT; 151-723 rushing, 11 TD)
- Jr. RB Miles Sanders (207-1223 rushing, 9 TD; 22-132 receiving)
- Fr. WR KJ Hamler (41-713 receiving, 5 TD; 3-33 rushing, TD)
- Fr. LB Micah Parsons (69 tackles, 4 for loss, 1.5 sacks, 1 forced fumble)
- So. DE Yetur Gross-Matos (54 tackles, 20 for loss, 8 sacks, 2 forced fumbles)
Last three seasons
- 2018 record: 9-3 (5-3 SEC)
- 2017 record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)
- 2016 record: 7-6 (4-4 SEC)
- Sept. 1 vs. Central Michigan: W, 35-20
- Sept. 8 at Florida: W, 27-16
- Sept. 15 vs. Murray State: W, 48-10
- Sept. 22 vs. Mississippi State: W, 28-7
- Sept. 29 vs South Carolina: W, 24-10
- Oct. 6 at Texas A&M: L, 20-14
- Oct. 20 vs Vanderbilt: W, 14-7
- Oct. 27 at Missouri: W, 15-14
- Nov. 3 vs. Georgia: L, 34-17
- Nov. 10 at Tennessee: L, 24-7
- Nov. 17 vs. Middle Tennessee State: W, 34-23
- Nov. 24 at Louisville: W, 56-10
- So. QB Terry Wilson (171-for 253, 1768 yards, 11 TD, 8 INT; 125-518 rushing, 4 TD)
- Jr. RB Benny Snell, Jr. (263-1305 rushing, 14 TD; 17-105 receiving)
- So. WR Lynn Bowden, Jr. (62-661 receiving, 5 TD; 8-25 rushing)
- Sr. LB Josh Allen (84 tackles, 18.5 for loss, 14 sacks, 5 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries)
- Sr. S Mike Edwards (77 tackles, 9 for loss, 2 interceptions, 6 pass breakups, 1 forced fumble, 1 fumble recovery)