First Scouting Report: Evaluating Kentucky’s bowl scenarios

·3 min read

An early look at Kentucky’s bowl prospects:

The projections

Going into UK’s season finale with Louisville, the consensus among the major bowl projections was that the Wildcats are headed to a postseason game in Florida.

There are a variety of opinions, however, on which one:

1. ESPN.com analysts Mark Schlabach and Kyle Bonagura disagreed on the Wildcats’ projected destination.

Schlabach had the Wildcats in the Outback Bowl in Tampa vs. Iowa.

Bonagura had the Cats back in Jacksonville for the second straight year for a rematch of last season’s Gator Bowl with North Carolina State.

2. USA Today’s Paul Myerberg projects UK to the Outback Bowl vs. Wisconsin. That would be a rematch of the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl in which Kentucky upset the No. 20 Badgers 20-19.

3. SI.com’s Richard Johnson predicts a Kentucky return to the Citrus Bowl in Orlando for the second time in four seasons (2018 being the other) for a matchup with Michigan State.

4. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com also projects UK to the Outback Bowl with Wisconsin as the foe.

5. College Football News has Kentucky in the Outback Bowl, but with Iowa — the college alma mater of UK Coach Mark Stoops — as the opponent.

Bowl dates and times

If the bowl analysts are correct and UK is Florida-bound to one of the three above-mentioned bowls, this is the relevant planning information for each:

The TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville is scheduled for New Year’s Eve at 11 a.m. and will be telecast by ESPN.

The Outback Bowl in Tampa will kick off at noon on New Year’s Day and be broadcast by ESPN2.

The VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando will be carried by ABC at 1 p.m. on New Year’s Day.

UK’s standing in the SEC

Going into the final Saturday of the 2021 college football regular season, the Southeastern Conference already had 11 teams bowl-eligible. Florida’s win over Florida State made that number 12, and LSU’s victory Saturday night over Texas A&M increased it to 13.

At 5-3 in SEC games, Kentucky finished with the fourth-best league record behind Georgia (8-0), Alabama (7-1) and Ole Miss (6-2).

That’s why the Wildcats’ odds of landing a Florida bowl game seem good, especially after its rout of Louisville on Saturday night.

Bowl history

UK is 11-9 all-time in bowl games and has won three straight.

Under Mark Stoops, the Wildcats are 3-2 in bowl games.

2016: Kentucky fell to Georgia Tech 33-18 in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

2017: UK lost to Northwestern 24-23 in the Music City Bowl in Nashville.

2018: The No. 14 Wildcats upset No. 12 Penn State 27-24 in the VRBO Citrus Bowl in Orlando.

Kentucky players, including Dorian Baker (2), C.J Conrad, Benny Snell, Josh Allen and Lonnie Johnson (6) celebrated after the No. 14 Wildcats beat No. 12 Penn State 27-24 in the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019.
Kentucky players, including Dorian Baker (2), C.J Conrad, Benny Snell, Josh Allen and Lonnie Johnson (6) celebrated after the No. 14 Wildcats beat No. 12 Penn State 27-24 in the VRBO Citrus Bowl on Jan. 1, 2019.

2019: Kentucky rallied past Virginia Tech 37-30 in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte.

2020: The Cats upset No. 23 North Carolina State 23-21 in the TaxSlayer Gator Bowl in Jacksonville.

This year’s sixth consecutive bowl appearance for Kentucky will snap the school record of five straight postseason contests set from 2006 through 2010 under coaches Rich Brooks (2006-09) and Joker Phillips (2010).

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