The Cats come into this game looking for their first bowl win since 2008, as well as the first postseason victory for head coach Mark Stoops. After back-to-back seven-win seasons, UK will look to score a win over a top-25 team for the second-straight season.
UK pulled a big upset over a ranked Louisville team to end the 2016 regular season. They’ll look to do the same against a Northwestern team ranked 20th in the AP and Coaches Poll. They checked in at 21st in the College Football Playoff rankings.
Northwestern enters the Music City Bowl having outscored their last three opponents, 104-20. They shutout Minnesota on Nov. 18, 39-0, and closed the regular season with a 42-7 blowout victory over in-state rival Illinois.
The Big Ten Wildcats rank 18th in the country in scoring defense at 19.8 points per game and is one of just nine teams in the country to rank in the top 25 in scoring defense each of the last three seasons, the others being Alabama, Clemson, Iowa, Michigan, Northwestern, Ohio State, SDSU, Washington and Wisconsin.
Offensively, Northwestern relies heavily on senior running back Justin Jackson, arguably the most accomplished running back in program history. Jackson is the nation’s second-active leading rusher and is nearing the NCAA’s top-10 leaderboard for career rushing yards with 5,283.
With 1,154 rushing yards this season, Jackson joined Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the only two players in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. He is just the sixth player in FBS history to reach the milestone.
Here is a look at the depth charts and rosters for both clubs: