PSU to Face Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl
The College Football Playoff Committee has done its job, elating some and pissing off others. Along with final rankings, they get to decide the big-ass, important bowl games’ combatants. The four who will compete for the SSMNC are #1 Alabama, #2 Clemson, #3 Notre Dame, and #4 Oklahoma. Also-rans who expressed various and sundry claims for inclusion were #5 Georgia, #6 Ohio State, and #8 UCF. (#7 Michigan knows better).
Rounding out the Top Ten are #9 Washington and #10 Florida. Bunched together at #10, #11, and #12 are the three highest ranked three-loss teams: Florida, LSU, and Penn State.
Penn State (9-3, 5-3 Big Ten) was a longshot to score a big-ass bowl, the Peachy Paterno Bowl in Atlanta being the best bet. Alas, that bowl went to Florida and Michigan. Elsewhere in big Big Ten games, everything will be coming up Roses for tOSU, who will play Washington in “The Grandaddy of Them All”. The next best bowl with a Big Ten tie-in is what is now called the VRBO Citrus Bowl, where PSU will play the #14 Kentucky Wildcats (9-3, 5-3 SEC) on January 1, 2019.
This turkey lives in Orlando, Florida, where the VRBO Citrus Bowl is played. This bowl game has had many names since I established my domicile here, starting with the Tangerine Bowl, then the Citrus Bowl, then the CompUSA Bowl, Capital One Bowl, and now the VRBO Citrus Bowl. I had no idea! I still have no idea. I’ve got to look this up. So, what the hell is a VRBO?
VRBO stands for “Vacation Rental by Owner”, suggesting that it is like AirBnB, only like for vacations. Its website proclaims it to be part of the HomeAway Family, whatever that is. I imagine those of you who watch the game on TV will be properly briefed throughout the game. After all, they paid big bucks for the privilege.
The Citrus Bowl, or Not?
The stadium itself used to be called the Tangerine Bowl, then the Citrus Bowl, as the promoting organization had changed its name similarly, to the Florida Citrus Sports Association. However, as the stadium has now sold out to the big bucks interests, it is no longer the Citrus Bowl. It is now Camping World Stadium.
What is Camping World, you ask? They sell RVs and everything associated with RV camping. With over 130 locations, you’re never far from Camping World. They didn’t pay me to say that.
So, it’s the Citrus Bowl, but it’s not the Citrus Bowl. Get it?
For the sake of having to call it something here, we’ll call it the Citrus Bowl.
PSU and the Citrus Bowl
This will be Penn State’s fifth appearance in the Citrus Bowl, having won two and lost two thus far. I’ve attended three Citrus Bowls. Here are my recollections.
The best was the 1994 game with #6 Tennessee, when #13 PSU flashed everyone a glimpse of what was to become the juggernaut 1994 season. In the parking garage elevator on the way to the game, some Tennessee fans were grousing about wishing they had a better opponent. An amazing production by Kerry Collins, Ki-Jana Carter & Company put a cork in their big, arrogant SEC Rocky Top mouths with an epic 31-13 victory. It was I who gloated in the elevator on the way back, for they deserved to have their orange-tinged noses rubbed in it. Vols fans’ only consolation prize was the MVP award going to their legendary future NFL Hall of Fame quarterback, Peyton Manning.
In 1998, the #11 Nits took on the #6 Florida Gators. I remember Joe Jurevicius having been suspended for that game, but I remember little else, having over-imbibed at the pre-game tailgate. Completely inebriated, I slept through most of the 21-6 loss and careened down the Citrus Bowl aisle afterwards. Good thing I had invited along a neighbor with unimpaired driving capabilities. WR Fred Taylor of Florida was the MVP that year.
Elevating themselves from THE DARK YEARS (cue cello), PSU finished #10 and took on #19 Auburn in the Citrus Bowl. This time the SEC blowhards got their revenge. I was there, but I recall being bored by the 13-9 loss to the War Eagle Lovers. The famous RB Ronnie Brown was the MVP.
Most recently, in the 2010 game, which I fortunately did not attend, the game took a backseat to the field on which it was played. #11 Penn State defeated #15 LSU 19-17 on such a crappy field you wouldn’t believe. It was sardonically dubbed “The Muck Bowl.” Newly laid sod hadn’t rooted itself very well, and there was considerable rain during the week prior to the game. Great clumps of sod and lots of mud characterized the fiasco that year. After that, the powers that be spent megabucks on new artificial grass for the field. For what it’s worth, PSU QB Daryll Clark was the MVP. Finally, a PSU MVP!
Kentucky Wildcats on the Plate
Kentucky started the 2018 season like gangbusters, surprising the shit out of SEC fans everywhere with signature wins over Florida and Mississippi State before losing their first game to Texas A&M in the sixth game of the year. That seemed to bring the ‘Cats back to Earth. Slim, low scoring wins over Vandy and Missouri preceded blowout losses to Georgia and Tennessee. They finished the season with a huge, 56-10 win over cross-state rival Louisville.
Kentucky is an unfamiliar bowl combatant, to say the least! They have long been a bottom-feeder in the SEC. Though a frequent contender back in the Bear Bryant days between 1947 and 1951, they have competed in only 14 post-season games since 1976, none of which as prestigious as this year’s Not Citrus Bowl. Their overall record in bowl games (including the Bear Era) is 8-9.
Prior Meetings with the ‘Cats
Penn State has taken on the Wildcats five times and won three. Since the Nittany Lions joined the Big Ten, the two have met only once, in the 1999 Outback Bowl. Penn State won that encounter 26-14, with the MVP trophy going to standout defensive tackle Courtney “Wingspan” Brown.
Given the two schools’ identical overall and conference records, I feel this is a “comfortable” match-up for Penn State, to be played on familiar turf for the Nittany Lions. (One hopes the turf itself will be in better shape than it was in 2009). I don’t know much about Kentucky, other than that their colors are also blue and white, so I’ll be doing some research before I develop any firm bullshit on which way I think this one will go. Meanwhile, our bookie friends in Las Vegas have given the nod to the Lions as 2½-point favorites.
I’ll be back with more about the Wildcats in the days leading up to the big game. Meanwhile, what do you all think about the matchup?