Cats will play Northwestern in Music City Bowl

LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Wildcats are headed back to Nashville. Kentucky has accepted a bid to play in the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and will take on Northwestern.

The game will be played at 4:30 p.m. ET on Friday, Dec. 29 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville and will be broadcast on ESPN. The Music City Bowl has been played continuously since its founding in 1998, sharing an affiliation with the Southeastern Conference ever since. This year marks the 20th anniversary of the Music City Bowl.

“We’re very excited to have earned another bowl bid and honored to receive an invitation from the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl,” UK Coach Mark Stoops said. “Kentucky has a long history with this game and fans love going to Nashville. Taking on Northwestern will be a great challenge and we look forward to an exciting game.”

The bowl appearance is the second in a row for the Wildcats after they reached the TaxSlayer Bowl a season ago. It is Kentucky’s 17th bowl appearance all time and the Wildcats own a record of 8-8 in those games.

This will mark UK’s fifth appearance in the Music City Bowl, the most of any team in the history of the bowl. UK has a 2-2 record in the bowl, scoring memorable wins over Clemson and Florida State in 2006 and 2007. Kentucky has a history of bringing big crowds to Nashville for the game, with the 2006 (68,024) and 2007 (68,661) editions being the best-attended games in Music City Bowl history.

“We are proud to participate in the 20th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and thankful to Scott Ramsey and the Nashville Sports Council for the invitation,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “Congratulations to Coach Stoops and our team for reaching a bowl game for a second season in a row. The Big Blue Nation has made Nashville a second home for us and fan support is going to be so important as our team works for its eighth win. Dec. 29 is going to be a big day for the University of Kentucky.”

The UK Ticket Office is now accepting ticket requests for the Music City Bowl from both season ticket holders and the general public. Fans should visit UKFootballTix.com for full information and to request tickets. Fans are highly encouraged to request tickets through UK Athletics, as institutional ticket purchases can impact future bowl opportunities. The priority ordering period runs through Monday, Dec. 4 at 4 p.m. Tickets requested during the priority ordering period will be allocated by K Fund priority point ranking with priority given to 2017 football season ticket holders and those who placed a 2018 season ticket deposit. Ticket requests will be filled based on availability.

Kentucky will enter the Music City Bowl with a record of 7-5. UK is one of two teams the country to tie or improve its win total from the previous year in each of the last five seasons, which coincides with Stoops’ tenure in Lexington. The Wildcats also went 4-4 in SEC, giving them a .500 record in conference play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-99. UK has had success away from home this season, claiming road victories over Southern Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt.

UK is led on offense by sophomore running back Benny Snell Jr., who ended the regular season leading the SEC in rushing yards with 1,318. His 18 touchdowns in 2017 set school records for both total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a single season. Standout junior linebackers Denzil Ware and Josh Allen – both ranking in the top 10 in the SEC in sacks – and junior safety Mike Edwards – tied for second in the SEC in interceptions – headline UK’s defense.

Northwestern carries a record of 9-3 (7-2 Big Ten) into the Music City Bowl. The Wildcats closed the season as one of the hottest teams in the country, winning seven straight games to finish No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. Northwestern has reached bowl games in three straight seasons and eight of the last 10 under head coach Pat Fitzgerald. All Big Ten performer Justin Jackson rushed for 1,154 yards to lead the Wildcat offense and the Northwestern defense is allowing just 19.8 points per game.

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  1. There is a high probability that NW hasn’t seen a defense as porous as ours.

  2. UK’s offense is not designed to score a lot of points, and as Mike said above, their defense is just about non existent and they haven’t proven they can stop a good offense with consistency. Those factors do not bode well for UK’s chances in this game. To be absolutely honest, I will be glad when this season is over and from the way they have played, I think a lot of the players feel the same way. As a team, they do not play with energy or excitement. Guess it is kind of hard to have excitement when 1 player sees the ball 90% more than anyone else on the team and your OC has a one dimensional mind.

  3. I just read that NW ended their season with a 7 game winning streak after starting the year 2-3. They beat their last 2 teams by a score of 81-7. Anybody awake out there? This is setting up to be another UK total embarrassment on national TV and typical end of year meltdown by Stoops. Remember, he still can’t win the big one.

  4. I have little doubt that Northwestern will give UK a stiff test, but I do not see it as impossible as some seem to indicate. Northwestern did start 2-3 and finish 7-0, and UK did start 4-1 and finish 3-4. Those are facts. However, Northwestern’s first 5 opponents have an average adjusted net efficiency of 1.68 points per possession while their final seven opponents averaged 0.829 ppp. UK on the other hand faced its first 5 opponents with an average ANE of 1.006 ppp while UK’s final 7 opponents averaged 1.766 ppp. This means the two schedules are not directly comparable, first games vs last games.

    UK’s victims had an average ANE of 0.770 ppp while Northwestern’s victims had an average ANE of 0.739 ppp. Those that beat UK had an average ANE of 2.400 ppp while those that beat Northwestern had an average ANE of 2.530 ppp. I think this provides a better basis for comparison of the respective schedules and array of opponents.

    I believe Northwestern has played better than UK over the course of the full season, but not by much. I see this as a 4 point game, 28-24 Northwestern.

    Let’s tee it up on December 29, and see if Coach Stoops and his troops can get the big win that will adjust the direction of this program following a frustrating season that saw the team and coaches let 8-4, and possible 9-3, slip through their fingers.

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