Citrus Bowl – Kentucky Wildcats vs. Penn State Nittany Lions (-6.5)
Tue., January 1, 1:00 p.m. ET
Three things to know before betting on Kentucky-Penn State:
1. Since taking over as the head coach of Kentucky, Mark Stoops has gone 0-2 straight up and 1-1 against the spread in bowl games. But this Wildcats team is the best Stoops has ever had, and they’re going to come into the Citrus Bowl with some serious emotion. This is one of the biggest games in Kentucky's recent history. James Franklin is also 0-2 straight up and 1-1 against the spread in major bowl games as the head coach of Penn State. But his Nittany Lions are also just 6-15 against the spread when the total is between 42.5 and 49 points. Also favoring Kentucky is the fact that the team is 3-2 against the spread when facing offenses that average 31 or more points per game on the season.
2. As a sophomore and junior, Trace McSorley threw for 57 touchdowns with only 18 interceptions. But McSorley has struggled as a senior after losing star running back Saquon Barkley to the NFL. On the year, McSorley threw for only 2,284 yards with 16 touchdowns and six picks. Not having the best player in college football, which Barkley was, has made it easier for teams to defend this Penn State team. The Nittany Lions only lost three games this year, but they didn’t play well against good competition. McSorley will face situations where he needs to make big throws, and Kentucky’s 14th-ranked passing defense won't make that easy. The Nittany Lions could really struggle to score.
3. Penn State has one of the more underappreciated passing defenses in the nation, but that isn’t going to help them much against Kentucky. Terry Wilson is not the type of quarterback that is going to win a team a game, and Stoops isn’t going to come up with a game plan that gives Wilson the chance to lose it either. Instead, the Wildcats are going to do what has worked all season: pound away with Benny Snell. At one point this season, Snell seemed like a legitimate Heisman Trophy candidate. He finished the year with 1,305 yards and 14 touchdowns. Snell is an explosive back that should be able to find holes in the Penn State run D. He’s the reason this Kentucky team has a real chance of pulling off the outright win in Orlando.
Pick: Kentucky +6.5
Confidence level: Moderate (on a scale of Low/Moderate/High/Very High/Extremely High)