The University of Kentucky was hoping for a trip to the Outback Bowl on New Year's Day, but that scenario probably went out the window with Saturday's 30-24 overtime loss to Tennessee.
Now a return to the Music City Bowl, UK's home away from home, is becoming more of a possibility.
Music City Bowl executive director Scott Ramsey said Monday that he is "definitely interested" in bringing the Wildcats back to Nashville for the third time in four seasons.
Bowl bids won't be officially announced until Sunday, but Ramsey said he's hoping the SEC league office will give the bowls permission to move forward with the process perhaps as early as Wednesday. In past years the bowls had to wait until the championship game was completed before selecting teams. But Florida and Alabama appear to be locks for the BCS regardless of what happens in Saturday's SEC championship game.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Lexington Herald-Leader
"It's hard to deny the success we've had with Kentucky," Ramsey said. "We've developed great relationships with the fan base, the administration and the coaching staff."
The only question will be whether the Wildcats are still on the board when the Music City gets its pick. After the BCS, LSU is the logical choice for the next step on the bowl ladder and could be headed to the Capital One Bowl. The Outback and Cotton Bowls go next, with Tennessee now the favorite to land in Tampa. The Cotton Bowl then would select a team from the SEC West, potentially Ole Miss.
That's where things get tricky. The Chick-fil-A Bowl gets the next pick and would have five teams with 7-5 records to choose from: Georgia, Kentucky, South Carolina, Auburn and Arkansas. Head-to-head records and where the teams finished in their respective divisions don't carry as much weight as does which team the bowl feels is the best overall fit.
Georgia wasn't really high on the radar going into last week, but the Bulldogs' 30-24 win over Georgia Tech catapulted them up the charts. The same can be said for South Carolina, which upset rival Clemson.
Ticket sales are always a consideration during the bowl process, but not so much with the Chick-fil-A, which has sold out 12 consecutive seasons and doesn't shy away from local teams. Georgia played in the Chick-fil-A Bowl in 2006, and Georgia Tech went there last New Year's Eve.
The Music City Bowl certainly won't bypass Kentucky if the Chick-fil-A does, even though UK players have spoken openly about their desire to get out of Tennessee for bowl season. In addition to winning the Music City Bowl in 2006 and 2007, they beat East Carolina in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis last year.
But Ramsey thinks the Music City Bowl would be appealing to Kentucky for several reasons. No. 1, the bowl takes place on Sunday, Dec. 27, which would allow Wildcats fans to head to Nashville for a short trip the day after Christmas, catch the game on Sunday, then head back for week on Monday.
Also, Ramsey said the Music City would offer an attractive opponent, which probably would be Miami or North Carolina. And the Music City is the only bowl game on Dec. 27 and has a prime-time kickoff (8 p.m. on ESPN).
"Hopefully a nationally known program like Miami or North Carolina would bring some excitement," Ramsey said. "We feel like that's a pretty good fit that would get the fans interested. And with it being unopposed in prime time, that would be a great platform."