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Posted at 11:00 AM EST.
VRBO Citrus Bowl
Tuesday, January 1st, 2019 – Camping World Stadium – Orlando, FL
1:00 PM EST. Before we move on to the meat and potatoes of this contest, we should point out that it will be the final game for Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley, and while McSorley's numbers are down from last year, he still has a considerable edge over Kentucky quarterback Terry Wilson. That will be the big selling point along with Penn State’s reputation and pedigree but we’ll use those selling points to take back an inflated number here. Aside from that, the Nittany Lions did a whole lot of nothing this year.
James Franklin wasted no time revealing how he would handle the aftermath of losing another instant classic with Ohio State, vowing in his postgame presser to come down harder than ever on his entire organization. He had an open date to do it and then the Nittany Lions went out and lost to Michigan State back in Happy Valley in their first chance at redemption. Penn State was a 12-point choice that day. Penn State would go on to win five of its last six games and those five wins occurred against Indiana, a much maligned Wisconsin program, lowly Rutgers, Iowa and a Maryland team coming to Happy Valley on a lull after playing their hearts out against Ohio State. In between those wins, when the Lions had another chance at making at least a little bit of noise, they got their doors blown off by Michigan, 42-7. It would appear to us that Franklin’s ruthlessly demanding approach has backfired or has not been embraced. One should also be concerned about PSU having a month off to endure Franklin’s wrath and as an example, we’ll turn to the Nittany Lions first game of the season, which was the last time they had so much time to prepare. In that contest, PSU got very lucky in a 45-38 OT win against App State. The Lions were a nose hair away from opening the year 0-1. Prospective Lions backers better be convinced that Franklin has lit a fire under his bunch, because Kentucky has excelled as an underdog in part because Mark Stoops has skillfully deployed two motivational tactics as needed: playing the no-respect card and circling the wagons.
Mark Stoops won't get to end his tenure as Kentucky coach voluntarily like Rich Brooks did, but two aspects of his time in Lexington will stand out as parallels to the Brooks era. Stoops will leave Kentucky better than he found it, and he won't be able to fashion a relevant SEC contender. However, Stoops has done wonders for the program on the recruiting, fundraising and facility-building fronts, but Kentucky has natural disadvantages that have cemented its historical place in the league pecking order. That said, Kentucky has played its best games all season as an underdog with a chip on its shoulder. The Wildcats have also played in the tougher conference this season and ended their aforementioned two-game skid with a dominant outing against Conference USA runner-up Middle Tennessee State and a blowout win in “The Battle for the Keg of Nails” with cross-state rival Louisville. This team has the defense to give PSU fits and is hungry to make history while also snapping a bowl victory drought that spans a decade. Big SEC underdogs have also fared very well in bowl games. In fact, in the past 20 bowl games in which an SEC team has been at least a 6-point 'dog (dating back to 1999), the SEC team is 16-4 ATS with 11 outright wins. The Lions figure to get a four-quarter fight from Kentucky and in a possible upset, we’ll grab the points.
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Kentucky +6 -106 (Risking 2.12 units - To Win: 2.00)