Citrus Bowl Pick: Kentucky Wildcats vs. Penn State Nittany Lions
No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats (9-3 SU, 5-7 ATS) vs. No. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3 SU, 7-5 ATS)
VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview
Date/Time: Tuesday January 1st, 2019. 1:00PM (EST)
Where: Camping World Stadium Orlando, F.L.
Point Spread:UK +6.5/PSU -6.5
Over/Under Total: 47.5
The No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats capped off one of their most successful regular seasons in recent memory with a 9-3 SU 2018 campaign highlighted by a 56-10 blowout over Louisville in the season finale. As a result, the Wildcats will get to meet the no. 12 Penn State Nittany Lions at Camping World Stadium for the New Year’s Day ARBO Citrus Bowl. While the Nittany Lions are listed as 6.5 point favorites among the Big Ten’s top programs, it is the Wildcats that enter this game as the Cinderella story after escaping the pits of the SEC. If the Wildcats can find a way to score the upset, it would be their first bowl victory in over a decade and just their 3rd 10 win season in school history!
Penn State’s physicality to be tested against Kentucky
Despite the Wildcats breakout season, Kentucky has done things the old-fashioned way with smash mouth football. The Kentucky defense has done their job with the elite pass rush of Josh Allen and big-time play of linebacker Kash Daniel who has helped the unit yield just 16.25 points per game (8th in FBS). On offense, Kentucky is not flashy nor do they present any complexity in their scheme. The Wildcats offense is physical in the trenches and straightforward with their running attack behind tailback Benny Snell Jr. Snell has racked up 1,305 yards with 14 touchdowns this season, and he is the lifeblood of this Kentucky offense. Despite the simplicity in their approach, Kentucky has attacked defenses with a relentless ground attack that will certainly test the Nittany Lion’s toughness.
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One of the reasons I am excited to watch this game is because Penn State is exactly the type of team to handle Kentucky’s toughness. I have often thought of the Nittany Lion’s as one of the most physical Big Ten teams, and this will be their chances to prove it. The Nittany Lion’s defense is no pushover allowing just 20 points per game (20th in the FBS). However, there is still a concern because the Penn State defense has not been great against the run in 2018. The defense has given up 168 yards per game (71st in the FBS) and nearly 4 yards per attempt. Head Coach James Franklin is one of the best coaches in the country towards game planning opponents, so rest assured the defense will have Snell in their targets. The question will be can they hold up throughout the full 60 minutes to get the job done?
Expect Penn State’s offense to deliver
Despite Kentucky’s impressive defensive credentials and stats this year, I still think Penn State will shine in this game. I believe the defense will put the focus necessary to stopping the run. From there, I simply see the Nittany Lions capitalizing on field position and possessions. This offense also has a great running attack with tailback Miles Sanders and quarterback Trace McSorley who have combined for just less than 2,000 yards with 20 touchdowns on the season. McSorley has not been nearly as efficient throwing the football this season (53%, 2,284 yds, 16 TDs, 6 INTs) as I would have expected. However, McSorley still has plenty of potential to make the Wildcats respect the passing threat especially with WR KJ Hamler on the outside. The Nittany Lions should be able to convert their possessions into points. As long as Benny Snell does not run wild, this should be a really great match-up for the Nittany Lions.
Kentucky vs. Penn State betting trends
Despite Kentucky’s breakout season, they have surprisingly still struggled ATS with a 5-7 mark on the season. The Wildcats ended the year by going just 2-5 ATS in their last 7 games. The Nittany Lions have hovered just above the .500 mark with a 7-5 mark ATS. Interestingly the Nittany Lions are 3-0 this season as favorites by less than 10 points. If you extend that statistic past this season, the Nittany Lions are 7-0 going back to 2016 as favorites by less than 10 points. Penn State has also hit the ‘under’ in their last 4 games and 6 of their last 8 games.
Jay’s Pick to Cover the Point Spread: I think this is a bad match-up for the Wildcats. I simply see Penn State having the advantage on both sides of the football. Take Penn State -6.5