You guys know that feeling where you come up with a fantastic idea at the absolute worst possible time?
Yeah, well that was me discussing the idea of a “Game Changers” series with the rest of your favorite BSDers about a week ago.
So here we are, beginning a new series that will hopefully continue into next season where we break down the two most important players for each team heading into Penn State’s football games.
For each team, we’ll spotlight one player on offense and one on defense that we feel is integral to the success of the Nittany Lions as well as their opponent.
This edition, as you could’ve guessed, will focus on Penn State’s Citrus Bowl opponent, Kentucky.
Penn State - Trace McSorley: This is the lazy but obvious answer for the Nittany Lions. The Penn State signal caller enters the final game of his career with 31-8 career record and a number of program records to his name.
McSorley will have to be on point against a Kentucky defense that is allowing just 332.2 total yards per game, good enough for 22nd in the nation. The Wildcats also allow just 181.3 yards through the air, 17th-best.
If the Nittany Lions want to get anything going offensively, McSorley is going to have to figure out a feisty Kentucky secondary.
Kentucky - Benny Snell: Much like McSorley, junior Benny Snell is the heartbeat of his team.
Snell is a two-time first-team All-SEC selection at running back and has surpassed 1,000 yards rushing in all three of his seasons in Lexington.
This year, Snell has rushed 1,330 yards and 14 touchdowns after running for 1,333 and 19 trips to the end zone a year ago.
Snell will have to deal with a Penn State front seven that has gotten better and better as the year has progressed.
After allowing a long run early, Brent Pry’s unit all but shut down Jonathan Taylor and Wisconsin completely on the ground. It then went out in the final game of the season and thoroughly dominated a strong Maryland running game, holding the Terps to 74 yards rushing on 36 carries for average of just 2.1 yards per carry.
Penn State - Robert Windsor: I was leaning Yetur Gross-Matos with this pick, because the sophomore was one of the best defensive linemen in the country over the last month of season, but decided to do look elsewhere.
Bob Windsor has also stepped his game up down the stretch and with how much the Wildcats like to run between the tackles, the interior of Penn State’s defensive line will be integral.
As BScaff pointed out in his film room, the Wildcats are almost entirely reliant on inside zone runs and while it will be important for Gross-Matos and Shareef Miller to set the edge, the burden will lie heavily with Windsor and Kevin Givens.
Kentucky - Josh Allen: A champion of the “STARS DON’T MATTER” crowd, Allen is a two-star recruit turned absolute monster for the Wildcats.
Allen has recently been named the SEC Defensively Player of the Year, the Bednarik Award winner, the Bronko Nagurski Trophy winner and the Lott IMPACT Trophy Winner.
Safe to say the 6-foot-5, 260-pound linebacker is one hell of a player and Penn State tackles Ryan Bates and Will Fries will have to find some way to keep him away from Trace McSorley.
Allen led the SEC with 14 sacks in addition to 18.5 tackles for loss, five forced fumbles and a team-high 84 tackles.
The Wildcats star will almost assuredly go in the first round of next year’s NFL Draft and could secure a spot in the top 10 picks with a strong showing at the combine.