Kentucky football gets dream matchup in Gator Bowl

Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis (1) throws down Ls after scoring in the third quarter. Nov. 24, 2023
Kentucky Wildcats running back Ray Davis (1) throws down Ls after scoring in the third quarter. Nov. 24, 2023 /

On Sunday, Kentucky football’s postseason fate was announced. The Wildcats will play Clemson in what promises to be a very intriguing Gator Bowl.

Kentucky football will meet one of college football’s greatest programs in the Dec. 29 bowl game. Kickoff is set for Noon between the Wildcats and Tigers, who were ranked 22nd in the final College Football Playoff rankings.

For Kentucky, I’m not sure they could have dreamed of a better opportunity in a bowl game. The Big Blue Nation is sure to be disappointed they didn’t finish with a few more wins and wind up in a New Year’s Six bowl, the reality is, it doesn’t get much better than playing Clemson.

Of course, this isn’t your usual Clemson team, that’s competing for National Championships. But it is still a Dabo Swinney coached Tigers squad that won its last four games of the regular season, which included Notre Dame and North Carolina. The Tigers also won their rivalry game with South Carolina, a team Kentucky fell on the short side of the stick from.

Playing Clemson in the Gator Bowl means one thing: Recruiting

The reality of bowl games is this: if it’s not the College Football Playoff or a New Year’s Six game, it doesn’t hold too much weight. The playoff itself has made bowl games less important. Even the Gator Bowl, which holds a lot of history, is no longer a must-watch game. Players will opt out and other than a nice hoorah for the winner, there isn’t anything tangible to play for.

This isn’t to say players won’t take it seriously or that it doesn’t matter at all. In fact, in some ways, bowl games are becoming more important. In the age of the transfer portal, new players virtually get a first glimpse of life with their new team. Undecided players in the portal will watch bowl games to get an idea of a program’s overall culture and scheme.

For Kentucky football, it might not be a top bowl game, but because they are facing Clemson, they will be in the national spotlight. It’s the first game of four on Dec. 29. While it’s not a standalone game – the Sun Bowl kicks off at 2 p.m. – it is the first game on a day of four bowl games. Plus, with the Cotton Bowl between Missouri and Ohio State later at 8 p.m., college football fans will tune in for an awesome appetizer between SEC and ACC schools.

As we draw closer to Dec. 29, we will dive deeper into the actual matchup, but for now, Kentucky fans should be ecstatic about getting to play one of the great all-time college football programs. That’s nothing to take lightly.