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Penn State Football: A Few Things To Know About Kentucky Three Weeks From The Citrus Bowl

by on December 11, 2018 2:30 PM

If you're like me, you might have had a vague "all I know is that they're better than usual" understanding of Kentucky football when the Wildcats were announced as Penn State's bowl opponent.

One of the great secrets in the world of sports writing is that so often those of us covering a specific team don't get to see much in the way of the games on any given Saturday.

So I know about Josh Allen, the best defensive player in the nation and the kind of linebacker Penn State would love to have right about now. I happened to watch Kentucky beat Joe Moorhead and Mississippi State. I've seen Lynn Bowden Jr make some great catches en route to nearly 700 yards receiving this year and Benny Snell Jr break tackles towards just over 1,300 yards on the ground.

But beyond that I didn't know much about Kentucky, so I took to the Internet to find out more and I've come back with a handful of stats I found to be interesting. And sharing is caring, and I care about you.

Kentucky 8th in scoring defense:

Opponents are averaging 16.3 points a game against the Wildcats and that's better than most everyone Penn State has faced by a fairly wide margin. The nation's leader, Mississippi State, is first with 12 points a game. On Penn State's end of things the Nittany Lions are 20th allowing 20 points per game, so things are theoretically pretty even in this area. Iowa and Michigan are the only teams Penn State has faced with a better scoring defense than the Nittany Lions have.

On the other side of the ball Kentucky is 83rd in scoring offense:

A modest 26.6 points per game puts the Wildcats in the lower end of the scoring column this season, but with Penn State averaging 34.6 points a contest, the gap isn't massive. The Nittany Lions are probably always going to average more points than their opponent unless something drastic happens, but for this team it has been about who those points are scored against. It doesn't come as a shock that Penn State has struggled a bit against better defensive units. Duh.

Kentucky has 15 forced fumbles which is 12th best in the nation:

In total Kentucky has been around 22 total fumbles and has recovered 10 of them. For comparison, Penn State has been around 23 fumbles, forced and unforced, but has recovered just seven of them. Neither team has an edge here, but Penn State certainly has made a habit of not scooping up turnovers when it ought to.

Kentucky converts 41.5% of the time on third down, 48th in the nation.

Penn State has actually salvaged this figure a bit after spending much of the season near the bottom of the nation and sits at 78th with a 37.89% third down rate. That's not exactly knocking your socks off, but it's actually better than it was in 2016 and a few other seasons. Although equally true, third down conversions being a problem for a while isn't exactly a good thing.

Max Duffy averages 44.78 yards per punt which is 14th in the nation.

Blake Gillikin has had a bit of an underwhelming season by his standards but has still managed 43.34 yards per punt which is 27th in the nation. So in theory this game will have a Big Ten flavor to it with two otherwise above average punters on the field. Hopefully not at the same time, although that would be interesting.

Kentucky 16th in pass defense 181 yards per game, 49th in rushing defense 150 yards per game.

Big surprise here but the good defense is good at stopping both the pass and the run. Generally the Wildcats have been a better pass defense team than rush defense which might be good news for Miles Sanders. The bad news for Penn State, given the receiving corps up and down nature, they will need to make the most of their chances against a stingy pass defense. 

Kentucky is 71st in penalties per game with 6.3 Penn State is 21st with 4.8

Despite what it might feel like at times, Penn State is pretty disciplined team when it comes to penalties per game. Kentucky only averages a penalty and a half more a game, so don't look for a lot of late flags. If you see them, those could be pivotal moments. 

Ben Jones covers Penn State football and basketball for He's on Twitter as @Ben_Jones88.
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