Penn State prediction: McSorley makes magic happen one final time for program just getting started
Bring on the sun and fun.
This is what bowl season is all about! For teams not in the Playoff, a school and its fan base can’t do much better than celebrating the new year in Orlando.
Given the fair weather, Penn State should be able to crank up its spread offense on Tuesday, even against Kentucky’s highly touted defense.
The Lion have struggled playing in muck and/or cold, windy conditions this year. Improvement in that area will be crucial if Penn State is to find equal footing with Ohio State and Michigan as a Big Ten elite program.
But for right now, with the Citrus Bowl (1 p.m. Tuesday, ABC) less than 24 hours away, I’m here to suggest record-setting quarterback Trace McSorley will go out in style. Big time.
With a month to heal an achy knee and his body in general, McSorley should look as good against Kentucky as he has at any time since the Ohio State game.
With temperatures in the low 80s and little wind, Penn State’s offense should get back on the fast track. With WR Juwan Johnson healthy and being talked up by coach James Franklin, the Lions should have the talent and depth to spread out and tire out the Wildcats.
At this point in the season, neither team will be used to playing in this kind of heat — advantage, Penn State. The Lions’ superior depth will be a key factor.
On offense, Penn State should do whatever it has to do to contain all-world edge rusher Josh Allen. The Lions should double-team and/or run away from the senior, expected to be a high first-round NFL Draft pick.
Allen and junior RB Benny Snell, who has declared for the draft, will both risk injury to finish college careers that have put Kentucky back on the map, at least a little bit, as a football school. Smart or not, you have to give those guys credit for caring — about their teammates, the program and sixth-year coach Mark Stoops.
But Penn State responds in kind. Possible first-round NFL selection DB Amani Oruwariye and four other seniors likely will start for the Lions. And several juniors who might declare for the draft are nonetheless playing.
Neither team is treating this game as a meaningless exhibition.
Kentucky (9-3) has a shot at its third 10-win season in program history and best year since at least the 1970s.
Penn State (9-3) wants a third straight season of 10 or more wins and to advance its quest for status as an elite national program. Coming off a second straight top 10 recruiting class, James Franklin would love nothing more than to finish 10-3 and establish this season as the minimum standard going forward.
Ideally, McSorley passes and runs with abandon and posts a Disney-type finish (and 32nd victory) to his magical career. And ideally, the players returning for next season break out in exciting ways — showing that their Disney-esque story in just beginning.
Final score prediction: Penn State 31, Kentucky 17