Going into Saturday, the Kentucky Wildcats looked destined for a lower-tier bowl, possibly as low as the Independence Bowl in Shreveport, Louisiana.
Now, it’s possible UK ascends up the pecking order enough to land in one of the best bowls the school has made it to in decades.
You may recall what used to be called the Gator Bowl, which is now known as the TaxSlayer Bowl. While not a BCS bowl, it’s one of the best non-BCS bowls a team can make, and the SEC has a spot open in it every year.
Thanks to the Cats’ win over No. 11 Louisville on Saturday, this bowl is now very much in play for UK. According to LEX18’s Larry Vaught, it looks like UK may have already secured a spot in the TaxSlayer Bowl, which takes place in Jacksonville, Florida on New Year’s Eve.
NOthing official but source I trust tells me it looks like UK has been slotted to play in Jacksonville on dec. 31. Kudos to @UKMitchBarnhart— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 29, 2016
The bowl matchup for this features the SEC’s No. 3-8 team vs the ACC’s No. 4-7 team. UK finished in a tie for second place, even though they actually drop to fourth because of Georgia and Tennessee both beating the Cats. The bowls don’t have to take this into account though, and it sounds like the TaxSlayer Bowl may actually prefer UK over one or both of those SEC East teams.
@KyleTucker_AJC Being told Georgia to Belk, Tennessee to Music City. But as you know, I can be wrong— Vaughts' Views (@vaughtsviews) November 29, 2016
This would be HUGE for Kentucky football if that ends up being the case. For what it’s worth, FOX Sports’ Stewart Mandel is projecting UK to face Georgia Tech in this bowl.
For UK to go from being 0-2 and looking dead in the water to now making one of the best non-BCS bowls a school can make would be one of, if not the most unlikely rise in college football this season.
In terms of bowl payouts, this was a top-10 bowl before the formation of the College Football Playoff. Now, the TaxSlayer Bowl pays out $2.75 million, which is now tied with the Music City Bowl for the 14th-biggest payout.
It’s also almost $500,000 more than the Russell Athletic Bowl, which is where Louisville is now projected to land after being a lock for the Orange Bowl (pays about $18 million) before UK beat them.
Last Saturday really is the gift that keeps on giving.