The Kentucky Wildcats will face off against the Northwestern Wildcats in the Music City Bowl this year. This is Kentucky’s second straight bowl appearance and their fifth appearance in Nashville during bowl season.
After starting the season 5-1, Kentucky finished the season 7-5 (4-4 in the SEC). While the season did not go the way most people had predicted (or hoped), the Wildcats have been bowl eligible two straight seasons after not doing so for five seasons.
They also have a chance to post 8 wins for the first time since 2007 (when Kentucky beat Florida State in the Music City Bowl).
Kentucky comes into the game being led on offense by Benny Snell, Jr. It’s been well documented the amazing career Snell has had while at UK and he’ll look to add to his yardage and touchdown totals (1,317 yards and 18 TDs) against Northwestern.
Stephen Johnson is looking to bounce back from a rough outing against Louisville to finish the regular season. Johnson finished 8-of-19 with 110 yards against the Cardinals in what was an all-around miserable performance for the Cats.
Northwestern comes into the game riding a seven game win streak and finished the season ranked No. 21 in the final College Football Playoff rankings. The other Wildcats finished the season 9-3 (7-2 in the Big Ten). This is Northwestern’s third straight bowl game and only the second time the two teams have met (the lone matchup ended in a 7-0 win for Northwestern).
The Wildcats are strong on both sides of the ball. Offensively, All Big Ten running back Justin Jackson leads the ground attack. Jackson rushed for 1,154 yards and 9 TDs, averaging 4.5 yards per carry.
Quarterback Clayton Thorson has thrown for over 2,000 yards with 15 scores this season. He is coming off a 13-of-21, 140 yard performance in Northwestern’s 42-7 demolition of Illinois.
Defensively, these Wildcats are tough to run against (allowing just 3.3 yards per carry and 10 TDs on the season) and tough to score against (allowing 19.8 points per game). Benny Snell and Kentucky will have their work cut out for them offensively.
We are still too far out for a line on this game, but I expect it to be a fairly close game if Kentucky can get the ball moving against Northwestern’s defense.
The date of this game creates a conflict for Kentucky fans as the basketball team takes on Louisville the same day at 1 EST. AD Mitch Barnhart commented on the potential conflict earlier this season.
This sort of problem is good for a program to have and we’ll be sure to let you know here on A Sea of Blue the plan to let fans enjoy both of these games!
Game Glance: Kentucky Wildcats (7-5) vs Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)
Location: Nissan Stadium in Nashville, TN
Date: Dec. 29, 2017
Time: 4:30 PM EST/3:30 PM CT
TV and Streaming: ESPN and WatchESPN
Announcers: Taylor Zarzour, Andre Ware and Olivia Harlan.
Odds: Northwestern enters the game as a 7.5-point favorite. The OddsShark computer projects a 19 - 37 win for Northwestern. SportsLine projects a 31-20 win for Northwestern.