An early look at Kentucky’s bowl prospects:
Going into UK’s contest with Louisville, most bowl projections had the Wildcats slotting into the tier of bowls just below the “New Year’s Six” bowl games:
1. ESPN.com’s Kyle Bonagura had Kentucky facing Wisconsin in the Citrus Bowl, Jan., 1, 2019, in Orlando, Fla. ESPN.com’s Mitch Sherman projected the Wildcats playing Northwestern in the Outback Bowl, Jan. 1, 2019, in Tampa, Fla.
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2. USA Today’s Erick Smith also slotted Kentucky in the Citrus Bowl against Wisconsin in what would be a rematch of the 1984 Hall of Fame Bowl, won by Jerry Claiborne’s Wildcats over the Badgers, 20-19.
3. Jerry Palm of CBSSports.com projects Kentucky against Northwestern in the Citrus Bowl in what would be a rematch of last season’s Music City Bowl, won by Northwestern 24-23.
A ‘New Year’s Six’ Bowl?
Kentucky has not played in a major bowl since Bear Bryant, Babe Parilli and company beat Texas Christian 20-7 in the 1952 Cotton Bowl (after the 1951 season). Conventional wisdom is UK’s disappointing 24-7 loss to Tennessee on Nov. 10 probably knocked the Wildcats out of a “New Year’s Six” bowl (which are the major bowls in 2018).
Most recent bowl
Kentucky fell 24-23 to Northwestern on Dec. 29, 2017, in the Music City Bowl in Nashville. UK quarterback Stephen Johnson ran for a touchdown with 37 seconds left in the game but Johnson’s subsequent two-point pass attempt to Tavin Richardson fell incomplete.
The game was marred by the controversial ejection of Kentucky star running back Benny Snell early in the second quarter for having contact with an official. Snell left the game with only 15 yards rushing on six carries and a touchdown.
Kentucky is 8-9 all-time in bowl games and has lost four in a row. UK has not won a postseason game since the 2008 Wildcats beat Conference USA champion East Carolina 25-19 in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on Jan. 2, 2009.
This is only the second time in Kentucky football history that the Wildcats have made it to bowl games in three consecutive seasons. From 2006-2010, UK played in five straight bowls, the first four with Rich Brooks as head coach, the final one under Joker Phillips.
Mark Story: (859) 231-3230; Twitter: @markcstory