Bowl games are generally peculiar things to try and predict, but with the new redshirt rules/trend of players sitting out bowls that only gets tougher. From the moment this matchup was announced, it has never felt like Penn State should struggle to reach the 10-win plateau. That being said, Penn State has struggled with inferior teams this year, even losing to Michigan State, and there may be a sense of a letdown about not drawing a third consecutive New Years Six bowl. Last season, Ricky Rahne did do well when he had a month to gameplan for Washington in the Fiesta Bowl, combined with Trace McSorley getting the opportunity to fully heal makes me overly optimistic despite Kentucky’s defensive stats. The news that Tommy Stevens will miss the bowl game only reinforced my thought that there will be a concerted effort to get Trace the 347 yards that he needs to surpass 10,000 career passing yards at Penn State. Defensively, I’ve already seen this team do what they would need to do to win this game, but again we’ll see what wrinkles the Wildcats bring out with the added time off and practice.
Penn State 38, Kentucky 20
Kentucky will no doubt give PSU a challenge with their ferocious defense (ranked 20th in defensive S&P+) and by pounding the rock with the NFL-bound Benny Snell, while also throwing some zingers to their star receiver Lynn Bowden. But, do you really expect Trace McSorley to go out a loser in his final collegiate football game? Do you really think this PSU defense, which has improved by leaps and bounds from September, won’t make a statement going into the 2019 offseason? Oh yeah, and there’s also the opportunity at having three consecutive 10-plus win seasons since Todd Blackledge and Curt Warner were leading the offensive attack, which would be kind of a big deal.
Penn State 34, Kentucky 17
I am so irrationally overconfident for this bowl game it’s absurd. I see Kentucky, and I see a poor man’s Wisconsin. Benny Snell is good, sure, but you’ll have a hard time selling me on the Wildcats being better at the run than the Badgers. Stop Snell, stop Kentucky’s offense. Seems easy enough.
On the other side, Josh Allen is a great LB, but one LB does not a defense make. A healthy, scrambling Trace McSorley will torch their defense, and I expect Hamler and Freiermuth to feast.
Penn State 42, Kentucky 10
I will continue to not be confident for any bowl game (although last year’s Fiesta Bowl did not cause as much stress as usual) no matter the game or opponent.
With that said, Kentucky is playing this game without starting linebacker Jordan Jones, and will have to rely even more on star Josh Allen. This bodes well for Trace McSorley, Miles Sanders, and the rest of the Nittany Lion offense. Defensively, Benny Snell is 98% of the Wildcat offense, so provided the front seven can at least slow him down if not stop Snell completely, Kentucky will have a difficult time putting points on the board.
Penn State should get the job done, but the game will be closer than it should be.
Penn State 31, Kentucky 17
Kentucky’s offense is very one sided. If the Wildcats can’t run the ball they’re in deep trouble as their passing attack is, to put it lightly, awful.
The key to stopping the Kentucky rushing attack is to contain running back Benny Snell. Snell, who will enter the NFL Draft following the game, is essentially a one man show for the Wildcat offense. There is a reason Kentucky ranks 92nd nationally in total offense according to S&P+.
The Wildcat defense, however, is strong. Led by one of the nation’s elite pass rushers in Josh Allen, Kentucky’s defense checks in 21st nationally according to S&P+. They’ll be without a key defender in linebacker Jordan Jones, however.
How Kentucky won 9 games in the regular season is tough to decipher. The Wildcats are the 40th best team in the country according to S&P+, while Penn State is 11th. Combine the Nittany Lions being the better team with this being Trace McSorley’s swansong and there is no way they lose.
Penn State finishes the season off with a bowl game victory to achieve 10+ victories in a third consecutive season for the first time since the early 80s. They also score some points with the casual fan since it will be a victory over a top-15 ESS EEE SEE school.
Penn State 31, Kentucky 14
I am joining Mr. Lucia in the irrationally confident zone, not the least because I could use a blowout win to make me feel good about this season.
But also, the best version of Penn State is significantly better than the best version of Kentucky. The Wildcats can only really beat you one way on offense and while the defense is good, I’m pretty skeptical of whether or not it’s great. The ‘Cats took advantage of playing piss poor offenses for much of the season and seemed to get exposed toward the end of the year.
Plus, Trace ain’t going out like no punk.
Penn State 34, Kentucky 17
Jared (from the game preview)
Kentucky is an ideal match-up for Penn State. The two keys will be for the defense to stop (or at least limit) Benny Snell, and buy some time for McSorley and find ways to get the ball out of his hands quickly to beat the rush. The former should be a solid possibility with Penn State’s vastly improved defense, the latter, however, could go any direction.
Outside of that, there is one intangible that makes me believe the Nittany Lions will leave Orlando with a ‘W’- it’s Trace McSorley’s final game in a Penn State uniform, meaning he will do everything possible to go out with a victory.
McSorley does exactly what he does in moments like this, tossing for 280 yards and two scores and contributing another 80 yards and a touchdown on the ground. Pat Friermuth and KJ Hamlereach get a touchdown reception in their first bowl game, with more to come.
On defense, Kevin Givens plays a major role in slowing down Snell with three TFLs, while Shareef Miller contributes 1.5 sacks for a big day overall for the defensive line. Micah Parsons leads the team with nine tackles and forces a fumble in a sign of things to come with regularity in 2019 and beyond.
Penn State-27, Kentucky-17