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No. 14 Kentucky holds off rally by No. 12 Penn State for Citrus Bowl victory

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Despite a furious effort by Trace McSorley on a broken foot, No. 12 Penn State (9-4) was unable to dig out of a big hole in the second half as No. 14 Kentucky (10-3) celebrated a rare 10-win season with a 27-24 victory in the VRBO Citrus Bowl. A record-setting day by running back Benny Snell and a dominating performance by linebacker Josh Allen were key in the victory for the Wildcats.

Snell rushed for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns to lead the charge. Kentucky’s offense was not a threat at all until the second half when Snell provided a much-needed charge after a tough first half. Kentucky bewildered Penn State to build a 27-7 lead late in the third quarter.

In that third quarter, Trace McSorley was reportedly being taken out of the game with a broken foot. But just moments after that information was relayed by Penn State beat reporters following an update from a Penn State spokesperson, McSorley appeared to talk his way right back onto the field with Penn State down 20-7. That drive did not last long and it did not end well for McSorley as he tossed up an interception to Lonnie Johnson, who returned the football to the Kentucky 34-yard line. After a quick 54-yard pass from Terry Wilson to Lynn Bowden Jr., Snell rushed up the middle for a 12-yard touchdown run to push Kentucky’s lead to 27-7.

The touchdown run by Snell also set the new Kentucky career rushing record. Snell passed the previous school record held by Sonny Collins, who held the record of 3,835 career rushing yards for 44 years in Lexington.

But after going down 27-7, McSorley and Penn State somehow came to life. Penn State scored on a short McSorley run early in the fourth quarter and McSorley completed a touchdown pass to tight end Pat Freiermuth with nine minutes to play in the fourth quarter to cut the Kentucky lead to 27-20. Nearly five minutes later, Penn State settled for a field goal by Jake Pinegar to trim the lead to three points for Kentucky rather than take a chance on a fourth down play. Kentucky would drain the clock on the ensuing possession with Snell handling things on the ground and forcing Penn State to use their three timeouts. The Wildcats did have to give the ball back to the Nittany Lions, with one second left on the clock after a punt.

This was Kentucky’s first time winning 10 games in a single season since 1977. The goal of hitting the 10-win mark was not one taken lightly by Kentucky either, as the Wildcats were extremely motivated to do something rarely done in this program’s history. It was part of the reason why a player like linebacker Josh Allen, with all the hardware to show off and nothing more to prove, decided to play in the bowl game when the trend is for potential first-round draft prospects to sit out of what many consider to be a meaningless bowl game. But this wasn’t a meaningless bowl for the Wildcats. This was a bar the team wanted to clear, and now they have.

What does it mean moving forward? For Mark Stoops, the bar has been set and now he must continue to work recruiting and player development to ensure there isn’t a dropoff in 2019. Doing so may prove to be difficult, but the Kentucky football program has been taking small steps forward every season under Stoops and it reached new heights this season. In a division that is already pretty challenging and could potentially get tougher, Kentucky does not look like it might be ready to start taking backseats in the division mix just yet.

Penn State falls shy of winning 10 or more games in three straight seasons for the first time since 1980-1982.

CFT Previews: VRBO Citrus Bowl

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WHO: No. 12 Penn State (9-3) vs. No. 14 Kentucky (9-3)
WHAT: The 73rd VRBO Citrus Bowl
WHEN: 1:00 p.m. ET on ABC
WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando, FL
THE SKINNY: Kentucky is going for the first 10-win season in school history in over three decades. Penn State is looking for a third-straight double-digit win season for the first time since joining the Big Ten. Something will have to give as both Kentucky and Penn State see the final games played by some influential playmaker in a college uniform.

Kentucky linebacker Josh Allen has collected a good amount of hardware this past awards season as he cements his legacy as one of the top defensive players to ever wear a Kentucky uniform. Playing one final game rather than sit out to focus on the NFL Draft is a testament to how much Allen wants to help the Wildcats accomplish a rare feat of a 10-win season before he moves on to the next level. He will be tasked to making sure Penn State quarterback Trace McSorley doesn’t get opportunities to make big plays with his arm or his legs. McSorley has been banged up this season but the time off before the bowl game may have helped get him closer to being the player Penn State needs him to be. With backup quarterback Tommy Stevens not available due to offseason surgery, it will be McSorley or bust for the Nittany Lions.

The running back matchup with Kentucky’s Benny Snell and Penn State’s Miles Sanders should be fairly even and just as much of a factor in the outcome of this game. Neither defense has a way of shutting everything down against the run so Snell and Sanders could have some opportunities to do some damage. But in the end, Penn State may have the edge of their receivers and tight ends keep their hands on the football.

THE LINE: Penn State -7.0
THE PREDICTION: Penn State 34, Kentucky 26

Kyler Murray leads AP All-American team; Tagovailoa named to second team

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Associated Press Player of the Year and Heisman Trophy winner Kyler Murray of Oklahoma was named First-Team All-American by the AP on Monday. Murray was one of 10 players from a College Football Playoff team named an All-American player by the AP, including Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and wide receiver Jerry Jeudy and defensive tackle Quinnen Williams, Clemson defensive linemen Clelin Ferrell and Christian Wilkins, and Notre Dame cornerback Julian Love.

Alabama led all teams with six players named to either the first, second or third team All-American rosters by the AP, four of which being named to the first team to also lead all schools. Clemson and Oklahoma each landed four All-Americans and Oklahoma had two players named to an All-American team by the AP.

Below is the full list of first, second and third All-American teams released by the AP for the 2018 season:

FIRST TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Kyler Murray, junior, Oklahoma

Running backs — Jonathan Taylor, sophomore, Wisconsin; Darrell Henderson, junior, Memphis

Tackles — Jonah Williams, junior, Alabama; Mitch Hyatt, senior, Clemson

Guards — Beau Benzschawel, senior, Wisconsin; Bunchy Stallings, senior, Kentucky

Center — Garrett Bradbury, senior, North Carolina State

Tight end — Jace Sternberger, junior, Texas A&M

Wide receivers — Jerry Jeudy, sophomore, Alabama; Marquise Brown, junior, Oklahoma

All-purpose player — Rondale Moore, freshman, Purdue

Kicker — Andre Szmyt, freshman, Syracuse

DEFENSE

Ends — Clelin Ferrell, junior, Clemson; Sutton Smith, junior, Northern Illinois

Tackles — Quinnen Williams, junior, Alabama; Christian Wilkins, senior, Clemson

Linebackers — Josh Allen, senior, Kentucky; Devin White, junior, LSU; Ben Burr-Kirven, senior, Washington

Cornerbacks — Deandre Baker, senior, Georgia; Julian Love, junior, Notre Dame

Safeties — Grant Delpit, sophomore, LSU; Deionte Thompson, junior, Alabama

Punter — Braden Mann, junior, Texas A&M

SECOND TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterback — Tua Tagovailoa, sophomore, Alabama

Running backs — Travis Etienne, sophomore, Clemson; Trayveon Williams, junior, Texas A&M

Tackles — Dalton Risner, senior, Kansas State; Andrew Thomas, sophomore, Georgia

Guards — Dru Samia, senior, Oklahoma; Michael Dieter, senior, Wisconsin

Center — Ross Pierschbacher, senior, Alabama

Tight end — T.J, Hockenson, sophomore, Iowa

Wide receivers — Tylan Wallace, sophomore, Oklahoma State; Andy Isabella, senior, Massachusetts

All-purpose player — Greg Dortch, sophomore, Wake Forest

Kicker — Cole Tracy, senior, LSU

DEFENSE

Ends — Montez Sweat, senior, Mississippi State; Jachai Polite, junior, Florida

Tackles — Jerry Tillery, senior, Notre Dame; Gerald Willis III, senior, Miami

Linebackers — Devin Bush, junior, Michigan; David Long Jr., junior, West Virginia; Joe Dineen, senior, Kansas

Cornerbacks — Greedy Williams, sophomore, LSU; Byron Murphy, sophomore, Washington

Safeties — Taylor Rapp, junior, Washington; Amani Hooker, junior, Iowa

Punter — Mitch Wishnowsky, senior, Utah

THIRD TEAM

OFFENSE

Quarterbacks — Dwayne Haskins, sophomore, Ohio State

Running backs — Benny Snell, junior, Kentucky; Eno Benjamin, sophomore, Arizona State

Tackles — Andre Dillard, senior, Washington State; Cody Ford, junior, Oklahoma

Guards — Terrone Prescod, senior, North Carolina State; Chris Lindstrom, senior, Boston College

Center — Michael Jordan, junior, Ohio State

Tight end — Noah Fant, junior, Iowa

Wide Receivers — A.J. Brown, junior, Mississippi; David Sills V, senior, West Virginia

All-purpose player — J.J. Taylor, sophomore, Arizona

Kicker — Matt Gay, senior, Utah

DEFENSE

Ends — Chase Winovich, senior, Michigan; Jaylon Ferguson, senior, Louisiana Tech

Tackles — Jeffery Simmons, junior, Mississippi State; Ed Oliver, junior, Houston

Linebackers — Paddy Fisher, sophomore, Northwestern; David Woodward, sophomore, Utah State; Te’Von Coney, senior, Notre Dame

Cornerbacks — Hamp Cheevers, junior, Boston College; Lavert Hill, junior, Michigan

Safeties — Andre Cisco, freshman, Syracuse; Jonathan Abram, senior, Mississippi State

Punter — Jason Smith, sophomore, Cincinnati

CFT Previews: Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

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WHO: No. 21 Northwestern (9-3) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
WHAT: The 20th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
WHEN: 4:30 p.m. ET on ESPN
WHERE: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tennessee
THE SKINNY: It was not all that long ago the thought of Northwestern being able to win a bowl game seemed like an impossible feat, but the times have changed. This year, the Wildcats are going for their second-straight bowl victory in as many years for the first time in school history. In order to get it, they will have to fend off the Wildcats of the SEC from Kentucky in the Music City Bowl, where the Wildcats figure to have a bit of an advantage in the crowd.

Kentucky slides into the bowl season with more than enough wins to be here, but they do so having lost two straight games by a combined score of 86-30 against division foe Georgia and in-state rival Louisville. Defensively, Kentucky was overmatched by the eventual SEC champions and playoff participant and a Louisville team and Heisman finalist Lamar Jackson out for revenge from last season. So how much can Mark Stoops regroup Kentucky to prepare for what could be a decent battle with Northwestern?

For Kentucky, converting inside the red zone will be essential. Kentucky has left too many points on the field by having to settle for field goal attempts this season once getting inside the 20-yard line. In 39 red zone trips, Kentucky has scored just 24 touchdowns and had to kick 12 field goals. Northwestern has been much more successful in the red zone with 39 red zone touchdowns (in 54 trips), with 10 field goals.

Kentucky’s offense will be fueled by running back Benny Snell, who has rushed for 1,318 yards and 18 touchdowns this season. Stephen Johnson has done well in avoiding making too many costly mistakes, and he’ll have to do that again against a feisty Northwestern defense.

This will also be a chance for Northwestern running back Justin Jackson to shine in one final game for the Wildcats. One of the top running backs in the Big Ten a year ago, Jackson got lost in the shuffle of talented running backs in the conference this season, but still rushed for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns. Expect him to be a factor against the 61st-ranked run defense of Kentucky.

THE PICK: Northwestern 30, Kentucky 26