- #14 Kentucky and #12 Penn State battle on January 1 in Orlando.
- Both teams are looking to close the season with their 10th win.
- The Wildcats have not won a bowl game since 2008.
Kentucky is looking to complete their best season in 40 years with a victory in the Citrus Bowl (Jan. 1, Orlando, FL) against Penn State. The Nittany Lions are seeking double-digit victories for the third time in the last four years. This is the fifth meeting between these programs, but the first since 1978. The series is tied at two games apiece.
The SEC was certainly stronger than the Big Ten during the regular season, but this is a rare instance where the Big Ten school has a much richer football pedigree. Let’s look at the updated odds from Bovada (as of Dec. 21).
Citrus Bowl Odds
|Team||Spread at Bovada||Moneyline||Total|
|Kentucky (#14)||+7 (-115)||+210||Over 48 (-105)|
|Penn State (#12)||-7 (-105)||-250||Under 48 (-115)|
While Penn State is ranked #12, and Kentucky sits at #14, the analytics community only sees the Nittany Lions as a top-25 team. The big question comes down to scoring. Can Penn State muster enough offense to not just win, but cover? While PSU averages a robust 38.8 points a game, the numbers are biased by blowouts against lesser teams.
Meanwhile, the Cats yield just over 16 points a contest.
Kentucky vs Penn State Statistical Comparison
|2018 Stat||Kentucky||Penn State|
|S&P+ Defensive Rank||21st||11th|
|S&P+ Offensive Rank||92nd||39th|
|S&P+ Overall Rank||40th||11th|
The data pretty dramatically favors Penn State. While Kentucky plays in the SEC, they did not have to face Alabama or LSU during the regular season. Their one marquee game against Georgia was a lopsided loss, and their best wins came against Florida and Mississippi State.
Penn State got throttled by Michigan, but lost by a single point to Ohio State. Their best win was at home against Iowa. The two schedules are actually pretty equal.
How to Bet the Citrus Bowl
This is the final college game for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley. He didn’t have a great senior season, but has proven the ability to make big plays throughout his career.
While UK has a strong pass defense, so too does PSU. Because the Wildcats are likely to run Benny Snell a ton, the Nittanies can put their corners on an island, sell out to stop the run, and dare Kentucky QB Terry Wilson to beat them. Wilson has struggled most of the year, and our bet is he won’t be any better to begin 2019.