The Kentucky Wildcats completed their 9-3 regular season with a 56-10 rout of Louisville on Saturday night, and now they await what should be their most prestigious bowl assignment in at least two decades.
The consensus from national projections is that UK will be selected for the Citrus Bowl, which is scheduled to be played Jan. 1 at 1 p.m. in Orlando. That would be the Cats’ first New Year’s Day bowl game since they played in the Outback Bowl following the 1998 season.
CBS Sports, SB Nation, The Athletic and 247Sports are all predicting that UK will play Penn State in the Citrus Bowl, while updated projections from USA Today, Bleacher Report and the Orlando Sentinel all pit Kentucky against Northwestern in that game.
The Citrus Bowl gets the first pick of Southeastern Conference schools that don’t make the College Football Playoff and are not selected by the playoff committee for one of the four remaining New Year’s Six bowl games.
The results of other games around the country Saturday all but ended UK’s already slim hopes of making a New Year’s Six game, but the Cats should be an attractive option for the Citrus Bowl.
Sports Illustrated’s projections have Kentucky playing Boston College in the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 28, but that set of predictions places Mississippi State — an 8-4 team that UK beat in the regular season — in the Citrus Bowl. It’s unlikely the Citrus Bowl would pick the Bulldogs over the Wildcats.
CollegeFootballNews.com placed Kentucky against Purdue in the Outback Bowl, a Jan. 1 game in Tampa, Fla. That would match the Wildcats up against U of L coaching candidate Jeff Brohm (if he hasn’t already taken the Cardinals’ job by then). The Sporting News predicts that Kentucky will play Iowa — Mark Stoops’ alma mater — in the Outback Bowl. Both of those projections have Louisiana State dropping out of the New Year’s Six pool and into the Citrus Bowl.
LSU entered the weekend as the No. 7 team in the College Football Playoff rankings. The Tigers lost in seven overtimes to Texas A&M on Saturday night — dropping to 9-3 for the regular season — but it remains unclear if that will be enough to move them all the way out of New Year’s Six contention. CBS Sports and SB Nation both kept LSU in one of the New Year’s Six bowls.
It’s also worth noting that LSU has played in the Citrus Bowl in each of the past two years, and a third consecutive trip to that game might not be as enticing to bowl representatives as a Kentucky team that could be playing in its first New Year’s Day game in 20 years.
Both of ESPN’s bowl prognosticators — Kyle Bonagura and Mitch Sherman — have UK in the Outback Bowl against Northwestern and Penn State, respectively. Bonagura has LSU in the Citrus Bowl, and Sherman places Mississippi State in that game.
The next batch of College Football Playoff rankings come out Tuesday night — early bowl projections will likely be updated then to reflect those rankings — and the actual bowl assignments will be announced Dec. 2 in a four-hour show on ESPN starting at noon.
This story will be updated as more bowl projections are posted.