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Orlando bound: Cats to play Penn State in Citrus Bowl

LEXINGTON — Kentucky will celebrate the New Year in Orlando.

The Wildcats (9-3) accepted a bid to the VRBO Citrus Bowl Sunday and will take on Penn State at 1 p.m. at Camping World Stadium in Orlando. It marks the third straight season Kentucky has reached the postseason under Kentucky coach Mark Stoops. The Wildcats lost to Northwestern 24-23 in the Music City Bowl nearly a year ago in Nashville.

“We’re very pleased to earn another bowl bid and honored to receive an invitation from the VRBO Citrus Bowl,” Stoops said. “It will be exciting for us to play in this bowl for the first time. It will be a great challenge to play Penn State, an outstanding team with great tradition.”

Kentucky will be making its 18th appearance in the postseason and owns an 8-9 record in bowl games. The Wildcats will be making its first showing in the Citrus Bowl and first New Year’s Day Bowl appearance since 1999 when Kentucky lost to Penn State 26-14 in the Outback Bowl.

Kentucky is coming off one of the most successful regular-seasons in school history and won nine games for the first time since the 1977 season.

“This season has been a special one for Kentucky football and I am excited the hard work of our players and coaches and the dedication of our fans has been rewarded with a trip to the VRBO Citrus Bowl,” Kentucky Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “To play on New Year’s Day in a bowl game of prestige of the Citrus Bowl is a milestone for our program and we are thankful for the opportunity to close out the season with what would be a significant victory. We ask our fans to honor this team and these seniors one last time by joining us in Orlando. They deserve the kind of support that the Big Blue Nation is so well known for.”

Like Kentucky, the Nittany Lions are anxious to compete in the postseason.

“Our program is excited and appreciative to play in the Citrus Bowl,” Penn State coach James Franklin said. “This is a well-deserved opportunity for the hard work our guys have put in this season. We look forward to maximizing our last month together with this family and these seniors. As always, we know our Penn State fans will turn out in huge numbers in Orlando.”

The Nittany Lions (9-3) have played six times in the Citrus Bowl and first appearance since an exciting 19-17 triumph over LSU in 2010.

Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at keith.taylor@kentuckytoday.com or twitter @keithtaylor21.