Kentucky football: Is the bowl luster getting more tarnished after bad loss

Kentucky cheerleaders
Kentucky cheerleaders /

Well, the bye week didn’t help the Kentucky football teams’ confidence, ranking, or fan confidence in just how average they have become after getting humiliated by Tennessee 44-6 this past weekend.

Fans are mixed on the state of this team and their expectations range anywhere from a still respectable but disappointing finish to the “toilet bowl”.  That debate can rage.

However, the bowl destinations have also been tarnished as well with an old familiar name and destination in Nashville and the TransPerfect Music City Bowl creeping into several projections. While Nashville is fine in its own right, New Year’s weekend is cold, expensive, and all too familiar.

The other issue is the kickoff for that game coincides with the December 31, Noon tip of the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game, and Big Blue Nation would rather be watching hoops than football in the Music City. Athletic Director Mitch Barnhart would not like this as an option either and should do whatever it takes to make sure his two programs are not playing simultaneously.

Still, that is not a done deal and Florida destinations are still on the table, or even Las Vegas is a very remote possibility but that looks more like an SEC West school would fill that slot and is not currently on anyone’s radar this week.

TaxSlayer Gator Bowl

Friday, December 30, 2022
TV and Time – 3:30, ESPN
TIAA Bank Field, Jacksonville, FL
Bowl Ties: SEC vs ACC

One-half of the ESPN duo that selects teams and their future postseason bowl is Kyle Bonagura who continues to have the Wildcats in Jacksonville but has switched his ACC foe to Wake Forrest.

The No. 21 ranked Deamon Deacons (6-2) were playing well and climbing in the rankings until Louisville throttled them for 35 third-quarter points last week and a 48-21 final.  Their other loss was to No. 4 Clemson 51-45. Kentucky and Wake have never met before.

Athlon Sports also has the Wildcats slotted here to play Notre Dame (5-3) who have beaten No 17 North Carolina and No. 20 Syracuse this year but also has a loss to Marshall. This is another matchup that has never happened on the football field but 64 times on the basketball floor. Two programs that have hard-core followings would generate interest.

ReliaQuest Bowl

Monday, January 2, 2023
12:00, ESPN2
Raymond James Stadium, Tampa, FL
Bowl Ties: SEC vs Big Ten or ACC

First off this is formally known as the Outback Bowl for those who are confused by the ever-changing sponsorship names.

This was a popular pick for the Wildcats to be playing in last week’s survey, but that sentiment has cooled this week to just College Football News thinking it will be Kentucky and Purdue squaring off.

Now, this would be interesting with Mark Stoops facing off with former Louisville quarterback Jeff Brohm’s team. The two schools have not played in 107 years with Kentucky winning the 1915 game in Lexington 7-0. Purdue won 40-6 the year before and 32-0 in 1895 both in West Lafayette.

The Boilermakers are 5-3 and lost to Wisconsin this past weekend ending a four-game winning streak.

TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Saturday, December 31, 2022
12:00, ESPN
Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Bowl Ties: Big Ten vs SEC

Ok, this is probably the least favorite of all the bowl spots with Kentucky having played in this game five times and only owning a 3-2 overall record. The last two trips haven’t ended with good results a 24-23 loss to Northwestern in 2017 and a 21-13 defeat in 2009 to Clemson.

CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm and the other half of the ESPN duo Mark Schlabach both have the Wildcats taking the field against Maryland. Schlabach had the Cats in Las Vegas last week.

Maryland leads the all-time series 3-2-2 and the teams met four times in the 1970s starting with a 10-10 in 1975 in Lexington, Marland won in 1976 and 1978 in College Park and UK won at home 14-7 in 1979.

The Terrapins are 6-2 this year with narrow losses to Purdue (31-29) and No. 4 Michigan (34-27).

Over at the Sporting News,  Bill Bender tabs Kentucky to face off with Wisconsin a team Kentucky has only played once in its history. The Wildcats won 20-19 in 1984 in the Hall of Fame Classic Bowl game played in Birmingham.

What does Kentucky football need to do and where do I think they end up

My thoughts and destination hopes are anywhere but Nashville. There is very little excitement generated about this game other than the fact that it’s close if Big Blue Nation wants to go. However, choosing between Nashville and watching John Calipari’s team play Louisville I think the sentiment would be with hoops.

Kentucky needs to polish its resume in the final weeks and keep the sentiment flowing for a Florida landing spot. They must beat Missouri, Vanderbilt, and Louisville with a loss to Georgia expected and understood.

I’ll take the Gator Bowl to kick off a New Year’s weekend and beat Louisville the following day. Wake Forrest plays three straight-ranked teams so their resume will surely change. Whoever it is I’ll take ringing in the New Year this way.

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