Kentucky football: Crystal ball look at possible bowl destinations and matchups

UK running back A.J. Rose
UK running back A.J. Rose /

Time to gaze into the crystal ball and see what bowl game Kentucky football could be playing in.

Enough knawing and gnashing of teeth after the dismal start to the basketball season and the average Kentucky football season or the search for new coaches.

Let us talk about going bowling, shall we?

After an emotional beat down leveled by Alabama and Florida, the question became would the outcome of the South Carolina game change the player’s desire to play or not to play in a post-season bowl game.

While not a thing of beauty the Wildcats took care of business and defeated the Gamecocks on Saturday.

Head coach Mark Stoops made no promises after the game instead of choosing to wait until Sunday where he parted ways with coaches Eddie Gran and Darrin Hinshaw.

The players slept on it and the pulse is still there and the heartbeat strong with the desire to play one more.

Per 247Sports Stoops spoke about what his players had decided.

"“We do plan on playing in a bowl game, by the way. We absolutely do. We had a team meeting this morning and the vast majority of the guys are excited and want to play. There’s a few that just need some time. They need some time to heal up mentally and physically and I completely understand that. But we’re excited about moving forward with a bowl game.”"

Kentucky and South Carolina were the only 2 SEC schools to make it the entire 10-game schedule without a postponement so they are now sitting on the sidelines waiting for their fellow schools to finish up.

Historically, Kentucky has appeared in 19 bowl games and is 10-9 including going to four straight under Stoops after a 6-year absence.

With nearly a dozen bowls canceling their games this year due to Covid-19 it’s safe to say the traditional tie-in games are in flux. There are still a lot of moving pieces and games to be played but here is what some sites predict.

According to USA Today, Kentucky could be headed to a New Year’s weekend battle with NC State in the Gator Bowl?

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Saturday, January 2
ESPN, 12:00 pm
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Bowl Tie-Ins: ACC vs. SEC
Projection: NC State vs. Kentucky

The Wolfpack (8-3) finished fourth in the ACC and on a four-game winning streak even if it’s Syracuse, Liberty, Georgia Tech, and Florida State.  Their season is complete and just waiting for where they will head next.

This would be engaging for the sheer fact the last time these two met was in 1970 where Kentucky won 27-2. Oh and not to mention a long New Year’s weekend in Florida would be fun.

Kentucky likes the Music City and The Bleacher Report and Mark Schlabach has them back again facing Minnesota or Wisconsin?

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Wednesday, December 30
ESPN, 3:30 pm
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big Ten vs. SEC
Projection: Kentucky vs. Wisconsin or Minnesota

Been there done that several times in the Music City. But anytime Kentucky plays in Nashville the Big Blue Nation invades. Probably the easiest bowl for fans to travel to but the opponent may be a bit underwhelming in Minnesota or Wisconsin.

The Golden Gophers (2-3) are tough to get a read on playing just five games and last beat Purdue on November 20. They finish out their season Saturday at Nebraska. Kentucky and Minnesota have never met on the gridiron.

Another Big Ten opponent would be the Badgers (2-2) who are even more of a mystery getting in just four games thus far. They routed Michigan and Illinois while dropping the past two with Indiana and Northwestern. They will travel to No. 16 Iowa on Saturday. Kentucky defeated Wisconsin 20-19 in the Hall of Fame Classic bowl game in 1984.

The College Football News likes the Cats and Oklahoma State in the Lone Star State.

Texas Bowl
Thursday, December 31
ESPN, 8:00 pm
NRG Stadium, Houston, TX
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big 12 vs. SEC
Projection: Oklahoma State vs. Kentucky

Not a glamorous name but a New Year’s Eve game against a Big 12 opponent wouldn’t be bad. Oklahoma (6-3) lost its bid at the conference title with a 29-22 loss to TCU last Saturday. They travel to Baylor on Saturday for the season finale.

This would be the first-ever meeting between the Cats and Cowboys.

CBS, Kyle Bonagura, and  Stadium are all in on the Wildcats in Memphis.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl
Thursday, December 31
ESPN, 5:00 pm
Liberty Bowl, Memphis, TN
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big 12 vs. SEC
Projection: Kentucky vs West Virginia or TCU

One scenario has a border showdown with West Virginia. The Mountaineers (5-4) were routed 42-6 by No. 9 Iowa State on Saturday and will host No. 11 Oklahoma this Saturday. Kentucky and West Virginia squared off in the 1983 Hall of Fame Classic bowl with Kentucky winning 20-16.

The other two predict it will be TCU (6-4) who also comes out of the Big 12 and they play their final game of the season on Saturday stepping out of conference to play Louisianna Tech. Care to guess when the last bowl game these two met in? You have to dig deep to find it but it was at the Cotton Bowl in 1951 where the Cats won 20-7.

How about 247Sports having the Wildcats and Boston College in Tampa.

Union Home Mortgage Gasparilla Bowl
Saturday, December 26
ABC, 12:00 pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Bowl Tie-Ins: AAC or ACC or SEC
Projection: Kentucky vs. Boston College

Kentucky fans always travel well especially when it’s a warm destination spot like Tampa, but the day after Christmas in a pandemic could be a problem for fans to travel if allowed. The Golden Eagles (6-5) have completed their season defeating Louisville 34-27 on Nov. 28 but fell to Virginia 43-32 last Saturday.

Boston College won the only game against Kentucky way back in 1937.

For now, the practice goes on for a yet-to-be-named opponent but more importantly a chance for the seniors to take the field a final time and some reps for the younger players. Stayed tuned till December 20 when we will find out the who, when, and where.