Orlando, December 20, 2018- It’s knocking at the door. The 73rd Citrus Bowl sponsored by VRBO (Vacation Rentals by Owner), will be held at Camping World Stadium in Orlando at 1 pm on Tuesday, New Year’s Day, to kick off 2019. The 12th ranked Penn State Nittany Lions (9-3 overall, 6-3 in Big Ten Conference) will take on the No. 14 Kentucky Wildcats (9-3 overall, 5-3 in Southeastern Conference). Tickets are flying out the online booths, so don’t wait much longer to see both these blue cats duke it out.
History for the noggin: Originally named the Tangerine Bowl in 1947, the Citrus Bowl goes down in the books as the seventh-oldest collegiate game in the nation. The commencing sponsors, members of Elks Lodge #1079 of Orlando, each threw down 100 bucks to fund expenses.In 1987, the game made the transition to the New Year’s Day date and has remained, with exception to when the holiday falls on a Sunday. Since 1993, leaderboard teams from the Big Ten and Southeastern Conferences have been annually selected.
The matchup will be telecasted on ABC in the first game of the new year and last of the 2018 season. Last year, (January 1st, 2018) the Fighting Irish 14th ranked Notre Dame took home the hardware in a climatic 21-17 comeback against the 17th ranked Louisiana State University Tigers.
This January 1st, Penn State will be appearing at the Citrus Bowl for the sixth time, tying the benchmark set by Florida and Georgia for most in the Bowl’s history. It will also be their sixth dance with Kentucky all-time; Penn State had the upper hand in the 1999 Outback Bowl, winning the faceoff 26-14. In the Nittany Lions most recent visit, they brawled- stunning the LSU Tigers 19-17 in 2010. Penn State is 3-2 in their 5 previous Citrus Bowl meetings AND in their all-time series with Kentucky.
Pre-game: You’ve arrived at Camping World Stadium after yelling at Orlando traffic for what seemed like hours. Mentally, you’re still gathering your thoughts back into football mode. Thankfully, you thought of these possibilities (more than likely if you live in Florida) and have some time to kill before the big kickoff- where’s the best place to treat yourself? Right outside the gates! The Mercedes-Benz of South Orlando VIP Hospitality Pavilion is a 3-hour tailgate that features all you can eat and drink, climate control, live entertainment and more, all for just $85.
The offer sounded too attractive to ignore and is now sold out. If you’re still reading this and not sulking because of your procrastination, it’s not too late to get in on the pre and in-game action- try their Tito’s VIP lounge. Get free unlimited food and drink starting again, 3 hours before kickoff until the end of the third quarter!
Loyalty: The fans in Wildcat Blue have shown their love, already selling out the allotted 9,000 tickets provided from Kentucky Athletics- that’s devotion people.
Overview: The Nittany Lions have thrived this season on the strength of one of the nation’s top defenses. Penn State has held opponents to 20 points per game on the year and ranks second nationally in sacks and fourth nationally in tackles for loss.
On the opposite side of the ball, the Nittany Lions are paced by running back Miles Sanders, who ranks 15th nationally and second in the Big Ten with 1,223 rushing yards this season. Penn State has also seen steady production from quarterback Trace McSorley, who has thrown for 2,284 yards and rushed for 723 yards and a team-high 11 touchdowns.
Kentucky’s 9-3 record, meanwhile, is the team’s best since 1977. The Wildcats rank eighth nationally in scoring defense at just 16.3 points allowed per game and allow just 181.3 passing yards per game, good for 17th nationally. Linebacker Josh Allen also leads the SEC with 14 sacks on the season.
Offensively, the Wildcats are led by running back Benny Snell, Jr., (declared for NFL draft) who ranks 12th nationally with 1,305 rushing yards this year and holds the school records for rushing touchdowns and total touchdowns. Sophomore receiver Lynn Bowden, Jr. led the team with 661 receiving yards on 61 receptions – the most catches for a Wildcat since Randall Cobb in 2010. Per citrusbowlorlando.com.
They also state that tickets for the VRBO Citrus Bowl are available via Ticketmaster by visiting https://bigtime.games/19cbtix. Groups of 10 or more may call the Florida Citrus Sports offices at 407-423-2476.
Vaughan Sixbury, BCP Contributor