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.
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
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
SB Nation: vs. Indiana in the Music City Bowl