Well folks, not long after Christmas wrapped up, I began watching the annual blue and white pilgrimage to the prestigious city lucky enough to host Nittany Nation as its home-away-from-home during bowl week. This year it just so happens to be Orlando, home of the Magic Kingdom, ironically, considering our fearless leader has been dubbed the Wizard over the course of his record-setting career. By now, Nittany Nation has settled in and waits patiently for the catfight that’s brewing in the Sunshine State. It’s Penn State versus Kentucky and a 10-win season rests in the balance for both.
It may not smell like roses and we may have fallen short of our playoff expectations, but we’ve come a long way from the days a W in the Pinstripe Bowl was an accomplishment. It doesn’t get much better than New Year’s Day in sunny Florida and much of our success since the Pinstripe win four years ago is thanks to the Wizard, Trace McSorley! If you think for one second I’m going to predict against him in his final hour, then you just haven’t been paying attention to the respect and admiration I have for #9, or for his fellow seniors who have put themselves in position to leave Penn State football in much better shape than it was when they first stepped on campus.
With that said, there is nothing easy about this game. Kentucky represents a more than formidable challenge. They sport the national defensive player of the year in Josh Allen, a running back in junior Benny Snell who is destined to be an early round pick in the NFL draft and a coach in Mark Stoops that is not only an up-and-comer in the profession, but obviously comes from the famous Stoops family tree in coaching. In short, as much as we wanted to relate Kentucky to basketball when this matchup was first announced, these Wildcats have built themselves into quite a challenge for opponents on the gridiron as well. They’re striving for 10 and they are just as confident as we are. They have no intentions of laying down to anyone, including the Nittany Lions of the Big Ten Conference.
It’s been over a month now since that win over Maryland wrapped up the regular season. That’s a month of rest, a month to heal old wounds, and a month to appreciate even more what this team has accomplished considering the players that left this time a year ago. In no way is that an excuse for a team that fought, clawed, and battled their way to the brink of another double-digit win season. They took the Evil Empire and Sparty down to the last play, literally, and I’m still not convinced a healthy McSorley wouldn’t have given the Wolverines all they could handle and then some, even as the ghosts of Ann Arbor were wailing about. No, maybe it’s not the Rose or Fiesta, but there’s no shame whatsoever ending up in the Sunshine State on New Year’s Day with the shadow of the Magic Kingdom looking on. It’s the 2019 Citrus Bowl and Nittany Nation is ready to rock and ROAR their way to one more victory all decked out in white: Nittany Lions 37, Wildcats 20.