Bowl Week includes a basketball school that is going for just its third double digit win season in program history going up against one of the established traditional powers in the sport. The Kentucky Wildcats had a serious look at the Southeastern Conference East Division title but proved to be outclassed by Georgia. The Penn State Nittany Lions were also in the mix for the Big Ten East Division but suffered inexplicable home losses to Ohio State and Michigan State to undermine their efforts. And speaking of double-digit win campaigns the Nittany Lions can achieve their third in a row under head coach James Franklin with a win over Kentucky in the VRBO Citrus Bowl.
The Citrus Bowl matchup in will take place on Tuesday, January 1, 2019, at 1 p.m. ET Camping World Stadium, Orlando, Florida. ABC is providing the telecast of this game.
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Penn State -4
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Naturally, Penn State is the favorite based on its historic status as one of college football’s traditional powers. Kentucky disappointed gamblers in their loss to Georgia in which they were exposed as pretenders as far as being serious SEC title contenders. It is likely that in most live betting scenarios in this matchup the betting public will give Penn State the benefit of the doubt.
Kentucky Stoops to New Heights
Mark Stoops has done a remarkable job as head coach of the Kentucky Wildcats upon inheriting the worst and weakest program in the Southeastern Conference in 2013. While it has been a slow and methodical build out that took longer than the fans wanted the fact remains that Stoops got the job done and has built a solid foundation. A big part of the credit also goes to the Kentucky administration that stayed patient after Stoops failed to produce a bowl season in his first three years on the job. The payoff for staying the course on rebuild plan has been immense and produced the best Wildcat football season since 1977.
A Great Recruiter that Lacks as Gameday Strategist?
James Franklin has also improved the program that he took over in 2014 after Bill O’Brien decided to escape Happy Valley and the fallout of the child abuse scandals that were a cloud over the program at that time. Franklin immediately stepped up recruiting and by his third season he led the Nittany Lions to an 11-3 record and Big Ten championship with an appearance in the Rose Bowl. A Fiesta Bowl triumph and 11-2 record followed last year. However even as Penn State improves its talent level, Franklin is facing increased criticism for bad game day decisions and blown leads in crucial home losses.
Team Record and Metrics
Kentucky finished 9-3 straight up, 5-7 against the spread and 5-7 under the total with a second-place finish in the SEC East. The Wildcats finished 87th nationally for scoring offense but eighth for points allowed.
Penn State was 9-3 straight up, 7-5 against the spread, and 7-5 over the total as the third-place team in the Big Ten East Division. The Nits finished 29th for scoring offense and 20th for points allowed.
Players to Watch
Penn State has a decided advantage with a couple of offensive play makers. Quarterback Trace McSorley finished with a 124.3 rating with 16 touchdown passes. He also ran for 723 yards and 11 TD’s. Running back Miles Sanders posted 1223 yards rushing, 5.9 yards per carry, and nine touchdowns.
Kentucky running back Benny Snell Jr. powered to 1305 yards rushing, 5.0 yards per carry and 14 touchdowns.
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Kentucky lacks the offensive firepower to hang with Penn State. The senior McSorley will want to go out with a bang and his third straight double-digit win season.
NCAA Football Odds: Penn State Nittany Lions
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