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Penn State Football: Allen Obvious Focal Point As Nittany Lions Face Talented Kentucky Defense

by on December 30, 2018 10:50 AM

ORLANDO, Fla. — It's good news and bad news for Penn State's offense.

On the one hand, they already go up against a pretty good defense in practice. So it's not like they are getting it easy most days of the week.

On the other hand, Penn State has yet to go up against a Kentucky defensive unit that might be playing as well as anyone in the nation right now.

"I'd say they're extremely well coached," Penn State offensive coordinator Ricky Rahne said. "Most great defenses are, you know. Obviously, we go against one in practice every day that is a great defense as well. I know how great our coaches are. So they're extremely well coached. They mix things up just enough.

"But, in general, they do what they do and they let their kids play fast and play aggressive. And you can also see on tape that their kids play with a lot of passion and that's something that is going to set people apart is when you can play with that type of passion and excitement and find joy in the little mundane tasks of football. That's usually when you're going to be really successful."

What defensive stats you decide to hang your hat on is subjective, but there isn't much doubt that Penn State and Kentucky boast two of the more stout defenses in the country, and each have an edge in different areas.

Penn State/Kentucky defensive rankings. Penn State advantage bolded.

  • Scoring defense: 20th and 8th
  • Rush defense: 71st and 50th
  • Pass defense: 20th and 17th
  • Total defense: 35th and 21st
  • Tackles for a loss: 9th and 54th
  • Opponent third down rate: 27th and 68th
  • Created turnovers: 20 and 18
  • Sacks: 5th and 34th

And all of it comes back to national defensive player of the year and outside linebacker Josh Allen, who is at the center of all of Kentucky's defensive prowess. According to Odds Shark, Allen has the second best odds of being the No. 1 overall NFL Draft choice, and a good performance against Penn State would certainly help his cause. His 14 sacks are fourth best in the nation, his 18.5 tackles for a loss just 1.5 behind Penn State's own Tariq Castro-Fields. 

So keeping an eye on him is up there on Trace McSorley's priority list.

"You definitely have to have an awareness of where he's at at all times," McSorley said of Allen. "Especially in certain situations where passing downs, with a guy like him, he's able to pin his ears back and go for the quarterback. But you definitely do have to have an awareness of a guy like him, not only because of what he can do in the pass rush, but he's extremely good at getting in and getting strips back and attacking the ball. So I think that's also part of his edge.

"Going through the week of preparation, you're putting a heightened level on ball security in the pocket when you're stepping up, not letting the ball get away from you and those types of things. Yeah, you definitely need to have an awareness of where a guy like him is at at all times."

For a Penn State team ranked 117th in fumbles lost, it's safe to say Allen — who leads the nation with five forced fumbles — is all too aware of that fact.

But again, the good news, the Nittany Lions have seen good defenses before.

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