Kentucky Wildcats vs Penn State Nittany Lions Betting Preview for 01/01/19

By Rick Rockwell in NCAAF on December 31, 2018

On New Year’s Day, the #14 Kentucky Wildcats and the #12 Penn State Nittany Lions will battle it out to determine this year’s Citrus Bowl winner and who’s the most ferocious football feline. The Wildcats bring in one of college football’s top 10 defenses and hope to corral the high octane Penn State offense led by Trace McSorley in his final game as a Nittany Lion.

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Will PSU win as expected or will Kentucky pull off the upset and get a big bowl game win for their school and the SEC? Kickoff inside the Mercedes-Benz Superdome is at 8:45 PM ET.

Kentucky vs Penn State Live Odds and Betting History

The following odds are courtesy of live odds feed:

Betting Data Kentucky Wildcats Penn State Nittany Lions
Current S/U record 9-3 9-3
2018 Home 6-1 5-2
2018 Away 3-2 4-1
2018 ATS 5-7 7-5
2018 ATS Home 2-5 5-2
2018 ATS Away 3-2 2-3
2018 O/U 5-7 6-6
2018 O/U Home 4-3 3-4
2018 O/U Away 1-4 3-2

Wildcats vs Nittany Lions Citrus Bowl Game Preview

These two schools have played against each other 5 times with the Nittany Lions holding a 3-2 edge. Their last encounter was the 1998-99 Outback Bowl, where Penn State won that contest by a score of 26-14. Both programs have come a long way since then.

Kentucky (9-3) comes into this bowl game having won their last two contests after dropping two in a row. They’re led by a ferocious defense that held teams to 16.3 ppg on the year. However, the question marks for this team surround the offensive side of the ball. Will Kentucky be able to match points with Penn State or will they struggle to find the end zone?

Penn State (9-3) has won three games in a row after the debacle at Michigan. The Nittany Lions will be emotionally fired up for the Citrus Bowl as their leader Trace McSorley will play in his final game for PSU. The QB has helped to turn this program around and will be a tough task for the Wildcats to contain. Can an inspired Penn State dominate on both sides of the ball?

Penn State opened as the favorite with the majority of online betting sites, but the points ranged from 4 to 5.5 depending on which college football sportsbook you looked at.

Since then, most internet sportsbooks have the Nittany Lions favored by 6.5 points. The Over/Under has seen far less movement as it opened at 48 points and has settled at 47.5 total points with most football betting sites.

Free Citrus Bowl Sports Bet and Game Prediction: PSU -245

Penn State comes into this game as the more balanced team on both sides of the ball, especially on offense. The Nittany Lions can beat you in the air or on the ground, which will make it harder for the Wildcats to defend. PSU averages 424.3 total ypg and 34.6 ppg.

McSorley didn’t have the passing numbers he did the last two years, but he still can sling it with the best of them.

Trace finished with 2,284 yards, 16 TDs and 6 INTs. However, he did rush for 723 yards and 11 TDs on the year, which makes him a very dangerous dual threat QB. Miles Sanders also ran well this year as he took over for the departed Barkley. Sanders has 1,233 rushing yards and 9 rushing TDs.

Kentucky’s offense is all about rushing the ball as they total 201.3 ypg. Top RB Snell has 1,305 yards and 14 TDs on the year. The Wildcats offense goes as far as Snell can take them since they don’t have a consistent passing offense. On the year, Kentucky’s passing game only averages 164.8 ypg.

PSU has one of the best pass defenses in the nation as they allow just 186.5 ypg, 5 yards per game more than the vaunted Kentucky defense. But, the difference is that PSU led the nation in sacks per game (3.58). They will bring the pressure against Kentucky QB Wilson and wreak havoc on the Kentucky offensive line.

The Wildcats hold opposing teams to just 326.2 total ypg and 144.9 of that comes on the ground. They are stingy in the red zone as well, which means that TDs will be at a premium. Normally, you wouldn’t think about kickers, but when you have two solid defenses that don’t give up a lot of touchdowns, it comes down to a kicking game.

PSU has a solid kicker in Jake Pinegar who hit 96.2% of his extra points and 71.4% of his FGs. Kentucky has tried two different kickers and they’ve combined to go 7 of 13, which is 53.8% success rate. From beyond 40 yards, their kickers went 1 of 4, while PSU’s Pinegar is 5 of 10.

This game is going to come down to two major battles: the rushing game and the kicking game. As you can see, PSU clearly has the advantage in the kicking game. As for rushing, they both are pretty even. Kentucky’s QB Wilson put up 518 rushing yards and 4 TDs on the year, so he’s just as dangerous out of the backfield as McSorley.

With both defenses focused on the run, the game will come down to the better passing attack and that is clearly in favor of Penn State and Trace McSorley.

I’m taking PSU to win the game, but I like Kentucky to cover the spread in a close battle. PSU has a decent moneyline of -245 and it’s the smart play for this game.

Penn State is 8-1 SU as a favorite of 3.5 to 10 points, 28-2 SU as a favorite including 9-1 SU this year, 9-2 SU in non-conference games, 17-4 SU after two or more straight wins, and 14-7 SU against winning teams. Kentucky is 7-9 SU against winning teams, 0-2 SU on neutral fields, 8-12 SU as an underdog, and 0-2 in their last 2 bowl games.

Penn State will win the Citrus Bowl due to McSorley’s play, a strong defensive pass rush, and their kicker. The Wildcats will make it a close one and keep the PSU offense well below their averages on the year.

Kentucky vs Penn State Betting Recap:

  • Oddsmaker: BetOnline
  • Moneylines: Kentucky (+205) and Penn State (-245)
  • Spread: Penn State -6.5 (-111)
  • Over/Under: Over 47.5 total points (-110)
  • Prediction: Penn State 20 – Kentucky 16
Pick: PSU
-245

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Rick Rockwell

As a longtime freelance writer, avid sports fan, former athlete, and experienced sports bettor, Rick Rockwell has risen up the ranks at GamblingSites.org to become the self-professed "King of the Blog" in his first year with the site.

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