Kentucky football learned Sunday it will travel to Nashville to face Northwestern in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl on Dec. 29.
It’s familiar ground and probably the easiest bowl for UK fans to reach on a New Year’s Eve weekend. Here are some things to know about the bowl and what else there is to do that weekend:
What is the Music City Bowl?
The Music City Bowl was first held in 1998 and established by the Nashville Sports Council, a group dedicated to bringing major sports and sporting events to Nashville to help promote the city as a tourism destination.
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Its current major sponsor is Franklin American Mortgage.
Over the years it has had tie-ins with the Southeastern Conference, the Big Ten, the Big East and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
It currently holds tie-ins with the SEC, ACC and Big Ten. An SEC team has played in the bowl every year but 2005. Unless things go drastically wrong in the SEC, it chooses an SEC school and then either an ACC or Big Ten school under its current format.
The game has typically been held around New Year’s Eve. This year’s game is scheduled at 4:30 p.m. EST on the Friday of New Year’s Eve weekend.
Is the Music City Bowl a major bowl?
The Music City Bowl is one of the “SEC pool of six” bowls, ranking behind the college football playoff bowls (Sugar, Rose, Orange, Fiesta, Cotton and Peach) and the Citrus Bowl.
Within the pool, the Outback then Taxslayer bowls typically get first dibs on eligible SEC teams, but those negotiations are worked out between the SEC and those six bowls to find the right fit for each school.
Other bowls in the pool of six are the Belk, Liberty and Texas. After that, SEC schools could also go to the Birmingham or Liberty bowls.
Music City Bowl teams each received $1.83 million for participating, according to the most recent estimates. That is about the middle of the pack in bowl payouts.
Who has played in the Music City Bowl and how often has Kentucky gone to it?
Kentucky has gone to Nashville for this bowl four times and come away with two trophies.
UK lost its first appearance 20-13 to Syracuse in 1999. Coach Rich Brooks’ Cats won back-to-back Music City Bowls over Clemson (28-20) and Florida State (35-28) in 2006 and 2007, respectively. In 2009, UK lost the bowl to Clemson 20-13 in Brooks’ final season.
Kentucky has made more Music City appearances than any other team, followed by Minnesota with three visits and a host of others with two each, including Vanderbilt, Tennessee and Clemson.
What is the stadium like?
The Music City Bowl has been played in Nissan Stadium, home to the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, in all but its inaugural season.
It features a grass surface and has a listed capacity of 69,143 divided among three tiers. There are giant video boards over the lower bowl seats in each end zone.
Located between Interstate 24 and the Cumberland River, it sits across the river from Nashville’s bustling downtown and has relatively easy access to parking off I-24.
Parking passes are being sold for $25 via Ticketmaster and shuttle service from other locations is available. Go to Musiccitybowl.com/parking/ for information.
What else is there to do in Nashville that weekend?
A two-day Music City Bowl festival with live music, activities, vendors and food is being held Dec. 29 and 30 along Nashville’s Broadway. Get complete fan zone info at Musiccitybowl.com/fan-zone/.
Keith Urban headlines a free concert in Nashville’s Bicentennial Capitol Mall State Park on New Year’s Eve. Also featured are Maren Morris, Cheap Trick and Carly Pearce, among others.
If you like hockey, you can take in a Predators game at 7 p.m. Dec. 30 at Bridgestone Arena.
Jimmy Buffett headlines a New Year’s Eve show with Huey Lewis and the News on New Year’s Eve at the arena as well.
Of course, Nashville is home to country music with no shortage of live music available all over town.
Music City Bowl
Kentucky vs. Northwestern
When: 4:30 p.m. EST Dec. 29
Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville
Tickets: Visit UKathletics.com
Music City Bowl history