Kentucky Football: Wildcat bowl destinations lost much of their bling

Kentucky and Tennessee
Kentucky and Tennessee /

Hope you didn’t book those New Year’s Day reservations yet because the glitz and glamour of a New Year’s Day Six game have lost its luster and opportunity for Kentucky football after three straight defeats.

The Wildcats started off winning six straight games and were the talk of the land after beating Florida and LSU and even playing Georgia tough in a loss.

But the team that seems snake bit after bye weeks suddenly lost to Mississippi State and then on Saturday let Tennessee streak past them with big play after big play despite UK controlling the ball for over 46 minutes.

The end result was a 48-45 loss and now Kentucky finds themselves the talk of other Southeastern Conference teams filling post-season bowl slots.

Just where this team’s head is after the missed opportunities know sitting at the end of the schedule were nearly sure wins against Vanderbilt, New Mexico State, and Louisville.

Finishing 9-3 for the regular season and adding a possible bowl victory and a 2021 overall record of 10-3 is very good.

These past two games were the ones I had been most worried about all year slowing down a Mike Leach air-raid offense two weeks ago and then the Vols under new coach Josh Heuple who had seemed to find instant chemistry with his new team in Knoxville.

Well, it is what it is now and this Kentucky football team needs to rally back and finish with three regular-season wins and go win whatever bowl they find themselves accepting an invite to.

Let’s take a look at a completely new destination list and my thoughts.

AutoZone Liberty Bowl

Tuesday, December 28
ESPN, 6:45 pm
Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium, Memphis, TN
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big 12 vs. SEC
Bowl Projection:

Talk about a major step down for Kentucky and a destination with very little appeal between Christmas and New Year as Saturday Down South has the Wildcats here and playing Texas Tech.

The two teams have never met on the football field, but the Red Raiders are in the midst of a coaching change and a program struggling mightily. Joey McGuire is taking over for the already fired Matt Wells, who was let go after coaching just 30 games with a 13-17 record. McGuire has been an assistant at Baylor for five years.

The only other time UK has played in Memphis in a bowl game was in Rich Brook’s 2008 season where they finished the year by beating Skip Holtz and East Carolina 25-19.

Duke’s Mayo Bowl

Thursday, December 30
ESPN, 11:30 am
Bank of America Stadium, Charlotte, NC
Bowl Tie-Ins: ACC vs. SEC
Bowl Projection:

College Football News has the Wildcats back in Charlotte where they were two seasons ago in what was formally called the Belk Bowl and has them playing North Carolina. The Wildcats beat Virginia Tech 37-30 in front of 44,138 fans.

While Kentucky and the Tar Heels are the blue bloods on the basketball court I’m not sure how much pizazz this has on the gridiron.

The series is actually tied between the two schools at 5-5 and the last meetings were home and home games in 1989 and 1990. Jerry Claiborne coached his final season and his Cats won 13-6 in Lexington, Bill Curry took over and in Chapel Hill, he lost 13-6.

Outback Bowl

Saturday, January 1
ESPN2, 12:00 pm
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Bowl Tie-Ins: Big Ten vs. SEC
Bowl Projection:

Athlon Sports is predicting the Wildcats will still get to play in a sunny spot on New Year’s Day with them tangling with Penn State. The two teams squared off last three years ago in the Citrus Bowl with Kentucky winning 27-24.

Kentucky’s only other appearance in the Outback Bowl was 1999 when they played….. Penn State but fell 26-14.

CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm has the Wildcats here with another intriguing matchup pitting Big Blue against Wisconsin. who just became bowl eligible by beating Nebraska on Saturday. The Badgers lost 3 of their first four games, but have now won 5 straight.  The only other time they have met was in 194 when Jerry Claibourne’s team won 20-19 in the Hall of Fame Classic bowl game.

247 Sports also has these two teams squaring off. Kentucky running back’s coach John Settle came to the Wildcats from Wisconsin so he would be very familiar with the Badgers.

So what do I think and want Kentucky football to end up?

When we started discussing bowls I was had Kentucky picked to the Citrus Bowl, but as they continued to win and a New Year’s Six Bowl and chance to win the SEC East increased I switched to the Peach and then back to the Citrus before Saturday.

However, I said if they lose to Tennessee and finish 9-3 they could slide to either the Outback, Gator, Liberty, MI Music City, Texas, or Duke’s Mayo game.

Well, here we are in that scenario.

Big Blue Nation will follow their Cats anywhere but they also want a desirable destination and strong opponent to cap off this season right.

Memphis and Texas Tech?  No

Charlotte and the Tar Heels? No

Orlando against any Big Ten Team? Yes.

Wisconsin or Penn State doesn’t matter. Two strong programs that will also bring the fans on New Year’s Day to Tampa is a win and has a bling factor with it. Either opponent would present a hard-nosed game that would be fun to watch. Of course, Kentucky’s defense would need to play better.

dark. Next. Tenn loss bitter orange pill to swallow