Many Kentucky fans resigned themselves to the BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham, Ala., or a return trip to the Liberty Bowl or Music City Bowl after the Cats lost their fifth game of the season at Mississippi State.
But the opportunity for UK to go to a higher-profile bowl isn't dead yet. If the Wildcats can beat Tennessee on Saturday for the first time since 1984, they would be on the radar for the Gator Bowl, which is played on New Year's Day in Jacksonville, Fla. The Gator Bowl is in the first year of its affiliation with the Southeastern Conference and pits the No. 6 SEC team against the No. 4 or No. 5 team from the Big Ten. The game kicks off at 1:30 p.m. and will be televised by ESPN2.
Gator Bowl President Rick Catlett said three SEC teams are under consideration: Florida, Mississippi State and Kentucky. All three teams wrap up the regular season against archrivals, and Catlett said the selection could come down to which of the three teams has the most momentum going into the game.
Florida would appear to be the Gator Bowl's first choice if it can go on the road and knock off Florida State. UF hasn't played in the nearby Gator Bowl since 1992 but will probably be underdogs in Tallahassee.
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Mississippi State closes out with a trip to Mississippi, and a win there would make the Bulldogs attractive. MSU has been bowling only twice this decade and hasn't played in a bowl game in Florida since 1940.
Then you have UK. If the Cats were able to knock off the Volunteers, and Florida and Mississippi State lose their finales, Catlett said a 7-5 Kentucky team with an energized fan base coming off a monumental win over Tennessee would get heavy consideration.
"If they were to beat Tennessee, that would give them a three-game winning streak with a win over its arch-rival," Catlett said. "That's what we're looking for. Kentucky typically travels very well for bowl games, and you add the excitement of what a win over Tennessee would do for its fans, they'd have to be under consideration."
If the Cats lose, they probably will be headed to Birmingham to play a Big East team. A Tennessee win over UK would make the Vols bowl-eligible and a prime target to head to nearby Nashville for the Music City Bowl. Georgia can qualify for bowl eligibility with a win over Georgia Tech, which would put it in play for the Music City, Liberty, BBVA Compass and possibly the Gator.
Eastern's Davis remains on track for Cats
Kentucky recruit Jon Davis from Eastern High School in Louisville says he's still committed to Kentucky despite receiving continued interest from other schools.
"There hasn't been any change," said Davis' father, Reggie. "Jon has a list of criteria that he used to pick Kentucky as the place he wanted to be, and he told me that nobody has done anything to change his mind about that."
Davis, a tight end/athlete, continues to hear from Louisville Coach Charlie Strong, who has done a nice job in guiding the Cardinals program in the right direction in his first year at the helm.
"It makes you pay more attention," Reggie Davis said of Strong's success at U of L. "Charlie will invite Jon to campus and, since he's close, he goes, just so he doesn't miss anything."
Oregon, Cincinnati, Stanford and Illinois are also trying to get Davis on campus for a visit, and Davis' father said he'll probably use at least some if not all of his five official visits.
"We want him to go on some of those visits," Reggie Davis said. "We just don't want Jon after a bad practice or after a bad day to say, 'I had no idea what Cincinnati was like,' or 'I had no idea what Stanford was like.' He doesn't want to be so committed that he doesn't know what the other folks are saying and offering."
But if Davis follows the same pattern that he did in selecting a high school, UK should be in good shape. Davis played youth football at Eastern and decided to go there despite overtures from some of Louisville's power programs.
"Jon could have gone to St. X, Trinity or Manual," Reggie Davis said. "But he played pee-wee football on Eastern's high school field and, when it was time to pick a high school, Jon told me he wanted to go somewhere he could make something happen, not where it's already happened. Would we have been better off going to Trinity? There would have been more wins, but would Jon have been better off? I'm a public school guy, and Jon had a great four years at Eastern."
Davis will now switch gears and play basketball for an Eastern team that is a legitimate state-championship contender. The Eagles have several Division I prospects on the hardwood, and the 6-foot-3, 240-pound Davis will provide rebounding and interior defense. He'll also try to squeeze some official visits in during December.
"He'll take a couple of trips and look around," Reggie Davis said. "He needs to know what he's doing is right. Joker (Phillips) will know if there's any wavering. Jon will tell him, and I'll tell him myself."
UK wins blood battle
UK has ended one losing streak against Tennessee, winning the blood battle for the first time since 2002. Kentucky beat Tennessee with 3,503 blood donors to 2,954. Kentucky's total broke the Big Blue Crush record of 3,482 in 1999.