Kentucky’s huge 2018 season has seen them land a Citrus Bowl date with Penn State on January 1 in Orlando. A win would see Kentucky reach 10 wins for the just the third time in the history of the program and it would be a fitting end to a season where the Wildcats have been one of the biggest surprises in the country.
By Steve Wright
Here are the three keys:
The health of Trace McSorley
Penn State had been an up and down team in 2018 and much of that was to do with McSoreley’s injured knee. He looked great in the regular season finale against Maryland, admittedly Maryland’s defense is not that good, and now he has had almost a full month off to heal the knee. Basically, this should be the best version of McSorley we have seen in months.
At his best, the senior quarterback is as much of a threat as any passer that the Kentucky defense has seen in 2018. Watch for Penn State spreading the ball around offensively and avoiding some of the gimmick plays that they had fallen into the habit of using with McSorley not at full strength.
A huge game from Josh Allen
It is interesting that Allen is playing in this game at all. We have seen so many high end players shutting down their season to focus on life in the NFL, but Allen has decided to play in his final game for the Wildcats instead of sitting on the sidelines. This speaks highly of Allen’s character 9no shock there) as he is determined to help his team win in Florida.
Allen won all the trophies that matter for a linebacker this season and the Bednarik Award winner is primed for a massive game here. Allen totaled 84 tackles, 18.5 tackles for a loss, 14 sacks, and five forced fumbles on the season, as the lynch pin of everything this defense does. With Allen in the lineup Kentucky can stop Penn State moving the ball effectively.
Win the rushing battle
We all know by now that Kentucky has to run the ball to be successful. Benny Snell was the second leading rusher in the SEC over the course of the regular season as he went for 1,305 yards and 14 touchdowns. Kentucky is going to load up a rested Snell and unleash him on the Penn State defensive front, knowing that his offensive line will give Snell a shot at success.
Penn State also features a second leading rusher in a conference in the backfield, with running back Miles Sanders fishing runner up in the Big Ten in rushing with 1,223 yards and nine touchdowns. Sanders has much more of a passing game to fall back on and provide a distraction, but he has made the drop off from the mercurial Saquon Barkley a little easier to swallow for Nittany Lions fans.
If Snell doesn’t rush for more yards than Sanders then it is hard to figure out how Kentucky will move the ball.