Sidelines with John Clay

Kentucky football makes appearance in ESPN bowl game projections

Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops went to hug running back Boom Williams (18) after UK beat Mississippi State 40-38 on Saturday, October 8, 2016.
Kentucky head coach Mark Stoops went to hug running back Boom Williams (18) after UK beat Mississippi State 40-38 on Saturday, October 8, 2016. Lexington Herald-Leader

Kentucky is two victories from post-season eligibility, but on the strength of last Saturday’s white-knuckle win over Mississippi State, the Cats are starting to show up in bowl projections.

ESPN’s Brett McMurphy and Mark Schlabach each have the Cats going bowling in December, though to different sites.

McMurphy has Kentucky playing Temple out of the American Athletic Conference in the Dec. 29 Birmingham Bowl at Legion Field. That’s a 2 p.m. game on ESPN.

Schlabach has Kentucky playing Big 12 member TCU in the Dec. 30 Liberty Bowl in Memphis. That’s a noon game on ESPN.

Temple is 5-3 after an impressive 46-30 win over South Florida on Saturday. The Owls have lost to Army (28-13), at now No. 24-ranked Penn State (34-27) and at Memphis (34-27). Jeff Sagarin’s computer rankings have Temple at No. 51. (UK is 73rd according to Sagarin.)

Sagarin has TCU at No. 32. The Horned Frogs are 4-3 after a 34-10 loss at West Virginia on Saturday. TCU has also lost to Arkansas (41-38 in two overtimes) and Oklahoma (52-46).

Kentucky hasn’t been bowling since the 2010 BBVA Compass Bowl in Birmingham when the Cats lost 27-10 to Pittsburgh. And they’re not there in 2016 quite yet.

Saturday’s win improved Mark Stoops’ team to 4-3 on the season. UK is at Missouri this Saturday and though the Tigers are just 2.5 on the season, they are an early 4.5-point favorite over the Cats.

Kentucky is 1-3 versus the Tigers since Missouri joined the SEC in 2012. Joker Phillips’ final team lost 33-10 at Missouri in 2012. Stoops’ first team lost to the Tigers 48-17 in Commonwealth Stadium in 2013. Missouri beat Kentucky 20-10 in Columbia in 2014. UK finally broke through with a 21-13 win over visiting Mizzou last season.

At the end of last season, Gary Pinkel retired after 15 years and a 118-73 record as Missouri coach. He was replaced by defensive coordinator Barry Odom, who has had his struggles in his first season as head coach.

Missouri opened with a 26-11 loss at West Virginia. It beat Eastern Michigan in its home opener 61-21, had visiting Georgia on the ropes before losing 28-27, then overwhelmed Delaware State 79-0. Since then, the Tigers have lost three straight -- 42-7 at LSU, 40-14 at Florida and 51-45 at home to Middle Tennessee.

Kentucky has rebounded from an 0-2 start to win four of its last five games. After a 62-42 win over New Mexico State and a 17-10 win over South Carolina, UK lost 34-6 at No. 1 Alabama. It rebounded with a 20-13 victory over Vanderbilt. After an off week, it rallied to beat Mississippi State last Saturday.

UK is 3-2 in the SEC for the first time since 1999. Those three league wins are the most in any UK season since 2009 when Rich Brooks’ team went 7-6 overall and 3-5 in the league. Those Cats lost to Clemson 21-13 in the Music City Bowl.

Kentucky football’s bowl history

Date

Opponent

UK

Opp

Dec

Bowl

1/2/51

Oklahoma

13

7

W

Sugar

1/1/52

Texas Christian

20

7

W

Cotton

12/31/76

North Carolina

21

0

W

Peach

12/22/83

West Virginia

16

20

L

Hall of Fame

12/29/84

Wisconsin

20

19

W

Hall of Fame

12/31/93

Clemson

13

14

L

Peach

1/1/99

Penn State

14

26

L

Outback

12/29/99

Syracuse

13

20

L

Music City

12/29/06

Clemson

28

20

W

Music City

12/31/07

Florida State

35

28

W

Music City

1/2/09

East Carolina

25

19

W

Liberty

12/27/09

Clemson

13

21

L

Music City

1/8/11

Pittsburgh

10

27

L

BBVA Compass

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