UK Football

UK football is bowl eligible for second straight season. Where might the Cats end up?

‘This is why we play so hard.’ Brooks, bowl teams honored at halftime

Former UK head coach Rich Brooks as well as his football teams from 2006 to 2008 were honored during halftime at the UK-Tennessee football game at Kroger Field.
Up Next
Former UK head coach Rich Brooks as well as his football teams from 2006 to 2008 were honored during halftime at the UK-Tennessee football game at Kroger Field.

For the second consecutive season, the Kentucky football team will be playing in a bowl game.

The Cats defeated Tennessee 29-26 on Saturday night to improve to 6-2 on the year and reach bowl eligibility for the second time under Coach Mark Stoops.

So, where will UK end up this postseason?

With four games to go this fall, the bowl possibilities for this team are many.

The Southeastern Conference’s elite teams will be chosen for the nation’s top-tier bowls.

The College Football Playoff committee will select the four national semifinalists — and those teams will play in the Rose and Sugar bowls — as well as the participants for the other four “New Year’s Six” bowls. There’s a possibility that an SEC team could go to the Orange Bowl this season, though that’s not a guarantee.

The Citrus Bowl gets its first pick of remaining SEC teams after the playoff committee chooses the “New Year’s Six” teams.

Johnson
Stephen Johnson and Kentucky played against Georgia Tech in the TaxSlayer Bowl last season. Ken Weaver

With Alabama seemingly a shoo-in for a playoff spot, Georgia still undefeated and Auburn, Louisiana State, Mississippi State and Texas A&M all clearly ahead of Kentucky in various rankings heading into this week, it’s highly unlikely — barring some major upsets — that the Wildcats will be in any of the aforementioned bowls.

After the Citrus Bowl makes its SEC pick, the process moves to the “Pool of Six” bowls. This is where UK ended up last year, and — based on the Cats’ current status within the league — this looks like the logical tier for Kentucky again this season.

For the Pool of Six bowls, the SEC — in consultation with the remaining bowl-eligible teams as well as representatives from each bowl game — will make the assignments for which school goes to which bowl. Representatives for each bowl and each school can list a preference, and the league will assign placement after that.

Here’s a quick look at info on each of the Pool of Six bowls:

▪  Outback Bowl: SEC vs. Big Ten in Tampa, Fla., on Jan. 1 (noon on ESPN2).

▪  TaxSlayerBowl: SEC vs. Big Ten/ACC in Jacksonville, Fla., on Dec. 30 (noon on ESPN)

▪  Music City Bowl: SEC vs. ACC/Big Ten in Nashville on Dec. 29 (4:30 p.m. on ESPN)

▪  Texas Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12 in Houston on Dec. 27 (9 p.m. on ESPN)

▪  Belk Bowl: SEC vs. ACC in Charlotte on Dec. 29 (1 p.m. on ESPN)

▪  Liberty Bowl: SEC vs. Big 12 in Memphis on Dec. 30 (12:30 p.m. on ABC)

Kentucky’s shocking victory over Louisville on the final day of the regular season last fall vaulted them into the TaxSlayer Bowl, the program’s first bowl game since the 2010 season.

Before that, four of the Cats’ previous six bowl appearances were in the Music Bowl Bowl, with the team going to Nashville in 1999, 2006, 2007 and 2009. That would also be the closest Pool of Six bowl geographically to Lexington. (Though this year’s Music City Bowl will fall on the same day as the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game, which is scheduled for a 1 p.m. tip-off in Rupp Arena).

Coming into this week, the bowl projections from ESPN, CBS Sports, USA Today, Sports Illustrated, Sporting News, Athlon Sports and SB Nation all projected UK to be in one of the Pool of Six bowl games. Four of the eight predictions had the Cats in the Music City Bowl (all of those projections are listed and linked below).

If the Cats should stumble through the rest of the season, the league’s lowest-tier bowl games could become a possibility.

After the Pool of Six bowl teams are selected, the Birmingham Bowl will get its pick of the remaining SEC teams. That bowl game will be played in Birmingham, Ala. on Dec. 23 (noon on ESPN) against an opponent from the American Athletic Conference.

Once the Birmingham Bowl picks its SEC team, the Independence Bowl selects a competitor to play in its game, scheduled for Dec. 27 (1:30 p.m. on ESPN) in Shreveport, La., against a team from the ACC.

Bowl assignments will be announced Dec. 3.

Here’s a rundown of bowl games that national media outlets were projecting UK to play in going into this weekend:

ESPN’s Kyle Bonagura: vs. Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl

ESPN’s David Hale: vs. Florida State in the TaxSlayer Bowl

CBS: vs. Iowa in the Music City Bowl

USA Today: vs. Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl

Sports Illustrated: vs. Northwestern in the Music City Bowl

Sporting News: vs. N.C. State in the Music City Bowl

Athlon: vs. Iowa State in the Liberty Bowl

SB Nation: vs. Indiana in the Music City Bowl

Kentucky offensive coordinator Eddie Gran, former Tennessee assistant coach, talks about UK’s 29-26 win over the Vols.

Kentucky running back Benny Snell talks about bouncing back from last week’s drubbing at Mississippi State to beat Tennessee 29-26. Snell rushed for 180 yards on 27 carries.

Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson talks about coming back with an injured shoulder to score winning touchdown in 29-26 victory over Tennessee.

UK football players talk about quarterback Stephen Johnson after he helped lead the Wildcats to a 29-26 victory over Tennessee on Saturday night.

UK football coach Mark Stoops, running-back Benny Snell Jr., and the rest of the UK football team celebrates a 29-26 win over Tennessee at Kroger Field.

Former UK football coach Rich Brooks and other former UK football players were honored as captains before kickoff at the football game against Tennessee in Kroger Field.

UK football coach Mark Stoops, Former coach Rick Brooks, and the UK football team walk the Cat Walk at Kroger Field prior to the game against Tennessee.

Related stories from Lexington Herald Leader

  Comments