2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview
Kentucky and Penn State meet on January 1st at 1:00 pm in Orlando in a game televised by ABC. It’s been 20 years since the Wildcats last played on New Year’s Day. Ironically on Tuesday, they face off against the same Nittany Lion squad who beat them in the Outback Bowl 26-14. Can the Wildcats exact revenge? Let’s find out with our 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview. However, first, let’s look at the history of the game.
VRBO Citrus Bowl History
Originally known as the Tangerine Bowl, the game was first played in 1947. As a result, it’s the sixth oldest bowl game. It became known as the Citrus Bowl in 1983 and became a New Year’s Day fixture in 1987. Since 1993, the game matches teams from the Big 10 and SEC. However, in years when a Big 10 school plays in non-semifinal Orange Bowl, an ACC team plays in the game.
VRBO or Vacation Rentals By Owners are in their first year as title sponsor of the game. Capital One, Buffalo Wild Wings and Overton’s sponsored the game most recently. Now that you know the history of the game let’s look at the teams starting with Kentucky.
Scouting The Wildcats
Mark Stoops‘ club comes into the Citrus Bowl at 9-3, the most wins in a season for Kentucky since 1984. In addition, they finished above .500 in the SEC for the first time since 1977. They are led by all-conference running back Benny Snell. Playing his final college game the junior needs 107 yards to break the school’s all-time rushing mark set by Sonny Collins. Behind Snell and A.J. Rose the Cats look to exploit a Nittany Lion run defense which gave up over 200 yards five times this year.
With all the attention given to Snell, quarterback Terry Wilson has been quietly solid the second half of the season. Over the final six games, Wilson threw for eight touchdowns and only three interceptions. In addition, he ran for at least 75 yards twice in wins against Vanderbilt and Louisville. Wilson’s favorite target is sophomore wide receiver, Lynn Bowden. With 62 receptions Bowden ranks fifth in the SEC to go along with five touchdowns.
On the other side of the ball, the defense is headed by linebacker Josh Allen. The SEC Defensive Player Of The Year won virtually every postseason award and is also playing his final game. Allen led the conference in sacks with 14 and tackles for loss with 19. He’s currently projected as a top five pick in the NFL Draft. He needs to be a disruptive force for Kentucky to succeed.
As we continue with our 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview let’s look at Penn State.
Examining The Nittany Lions
James Franklin‘s club enters the game with a 9-3 record with losses coming to Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State. They are led by quarterback Trace McSorley. The senior’s passing numbers were down significantly from 2017 throwing for 2,217 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions. However, his rushing numbers are up totaling 723 yards and 11 more scores.
Miles Sanders had the unenviable task of replacing Saquon Barkley in the backfield and did an outstanding job. Sanders finished the regular season with 1,223 yards on the ground and 11 touchdowns. When McSorley does throw the ball his favorite target is KJ Hamler. The freshman caught 42 passes for 714 yards and five touchdowns.
Penn State’s defense is led by the tandem of defensive end Yetur Gross-Matos and defensive tackle Robert Windsor. The duo combined for 16 sacks. For the season the Nittany Lions rank first in sacks per game with nearly four. Kentucky’s veteran offensive line has their work cut out for them in trying to keep them away from Wilson.
No Love Lost Between The Coaches
Though neither will admit it, Stoops and Franklin aren’t on each other’s Christmas Card list. During Franklin’s time at Vanderbilt, he was a huge thorn in the side of Kentucky football. In his three years in Nashville, the Commodores outscored the Wildcats 100-14 winning all three. He was on the other sideline during the loss which got Joker Phillips fired, a 40-0 dismantling in 2012.
Fast forward to 2013, Stoops’ first season in Lexington. Late in the game in Nashville Vandy led 15-6 with under a minute to play. Even with the ball on the Kentucky 13 most coaches would run out the clock. However, Franklin did no such thing. Leaving his offense in on fourth down and running a trick play led to a meaningless touchdown. Following the game, Stoops and Franklin “had a lengthy discussion” about what happened. The Kentucky coach always wanted to get revenge for what happened. Unfortunately, Franklin left for State College the next year and this is the first time the two have met. What better way to get revenge than in a January bowl game.
Series And Bowl History
Kentucky and Penn State have met five times with the Nittany Lions holding a 3-2 advantage. From 1975-1978 the teams played a home and home series with each school winning twice. The Kentucky wins in 1976 and 1977 still rank as two of the biggest wins in program history.
As mentioned earlier the last time the schools met was the 1999 Outback Bowl. More than 40,000 True Blue Fans including yours truly made the trip for Kentucky’s first January game since 1952. Behind future number one draft pick Tim Couch, the Cats jumped out to a 14-3 lead. However, they couldn’t sustain the momentum as Joe Paterno’s club ran off 23 unanswered points to win 26-14.
Penn State is 29-17-2 all time in bowl games and 2-3 in the Citrus Bowl. On the other hand, Kentucky is 8-9 and has lost four straight bowl games. This is their first Citrus Bowl appearance. Furthermore, they are 0-3 in games played in Florida. In a season of ending streaks, these are two more the Cats would desperately like to end.
Who Wins The Citrus Bowl?
As we continue with our 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview, it is prediction time. Most of the attention in this game focuses on the battle between Allen and McSorley. However, just as big is the battle of Snell versus the Penn State rush defense.
After being unfairly ejected in last year’s Music City Bowl look for Snell to put up some huge stats in his final game. Kentucky wants to run the ball and take time off the clock in order to keep McSorley off the field.
Kentucky is the underdog in this game which is just the way they want it. While they took great strides in the SEC over the last couple of years nationally they haven’t gotten much respect. A win over Penn State does just that and the Cats and Stoops get another break through victory in Orlando.
Kentucky 24 Penn State 20
Thanks for checking out the 2019 VRBO Citrus Bowl Preview here at Last Word On College Football. As a reminder, we will have a recap of the game and even more coverage of the Wildcats throughout the year.