Penn State football to face Kentucky in Citrus Bowl on New Year's Day

Penn State head coach James Franklin, yells at the referee during a timeout against Wisconsin in the second half of an NCAA college football game in State College, Pa., Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. Penn State won 22-10. (AP Photo/Chris Knight)
  • Penn State will play Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on New Year's Day.
  • The 14th-ranked Wildcats (9-3) pose one of the top defenses in the country.
  • The 12th-ranked Lions (9-3) are looking for their third straight 10-win season.

Penn State wasn't one of the handful of teams awaiting its fate at the hands of the 13-person College Football Playoff Committee Sunday afternoon.

The 12th-ranked Nittany Lions (9-3), however, will be playing in a New Year's Day bowl game to cap their season. Penn State will face Kentucky (9-3) in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Florida, on Jan. 1.

Kentucky, better known as one of the top college basketball schools, is enjoying its best season since 1984, when the Wildcats went 9-3 and were ranked as high as 16th. The 14th-ranked Wildcats, led by head coach Mark Stoops, finished third in the SEC East behind Georgia and Florida. 

Kentucky poses a stout defensive unit, allowing only 16.3 points per game while scoring 26.6. The defense is led by linebacker Josh Allen, who leads the team with 14 sacks. The offense is paced by running back Benny Snell, who has rushed for 1,305 yards this season.

The Wildcats' best win of the season was a 27-16 road victory against Florida. Its three losses came to Georgia, Tennessee and Texas A&M. 

Penn State won't be going to its third straight "New Year's Six" bowl game. The Lions won the Fiesta Bowl last season against Washington and lost the Rose Bowl to Penn State two years ago.

A win over the Wildcats would give head coach James Franklin his third straight 10-win season. Prior to 2016, the Lions hadn't won 10 games in a season since 2009. Penn State hasn't won 10 games in three straight seasons since 1980-82.

Kickoff for the game against Kentucky will be 1 p.m. on ABC.