Kentucky’s 34-17 loss to Georgia on Saturday ended the Wildcats’ dreams of winning the SEC East title and playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff, but it apparently did nothing to hinder their chances for a spot in a major bowl game this postseason.
UK is 7-2 with a 5-2 record in league play and remaining games at Tennessee (on Saturday), Middle Tennessee at home (Nov. 17) and the regular-season finale at Louisville (Nov. 24).
A 10-2 season is still very much in play for the Cats, who will finish second in the SEC East.
“This team is special,” UK quarterback Terry Wilson said Saturday night. “I know we’ll win out, and the thing about this team is we’re not going to give up. We’re going to just keep playing hard and just keep getting after it. This team is special, so I know we can do big things.”
The bowl prognosticators are still predicting big things, indeed, for the Wildcats.
In fact, all of the early returns Sunday morning put Kentucky in the same New Year’s Six game — the Fiesta Bowl, which is scheduled to be played Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. and set for a national audience on ESPN.
Sports Illustrated, 247Sports, CollegeFootballNews.com and SB Nation all predicted Sunday that UK will end up playing Central Florida in the Fiesta Bowl in Glendale, Ariz. Kentucky has never played in the Fiesta Bowl, which started in 1971 and is one of college football’s major postseason games.
UCF went undefeated last season — and claimed its own national championship — and is off to an 8-0 start this fall. By the time bowl season rolls around, the Knights could be riding a 25-game winning streak. They also have one of the nation’s most dynamic offenses.
CBS Sports analyst Jerry Palm also has UK in a New Year’s Six game, but Palm is projecting that the Wildcats will play West Virginia in the Peach Bowl in Atlanta on Dec. 29. (That’s the same day as the Kentucky-Louisville basketball game, which is set to tip off at 2 p.m. on ESPN2. The Peach Bowl is set for a noon kickoff on ESPN.)
ESPN’s projections were posted Sunday afternoon, and — though both ESPN prognosticators have UK in a Jan. 1 bowl — neither has the Cats in a New Year’s Six game. Mitch Sherman is projecting that Kentucky will play Michigan State in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla., while Kyle Bonagura has UK against Penn State in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.
The New Year’s Six games are decided by the College Football Playoff selection committee and represent many of the nation’s oldest bowl games. The other non-playoff, New Year’s Six games in this year’s cycle are the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., and the Sugar Bowl in New Orleans.
This story will be updated as more national bowl projections are posted.
SEC-affiliated bowl games
*-Notre Dame is possible opponent