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Bowl eligibility adds new twist to 2020 college football season

Wildcats begin loaded SEC schedule on Saturday

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: DEC 31 Belk Bowl - Virginia Tech v Kentucky Photo by John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

You can now add one more twist to the 2020 college football season as bowl eligibility is the latest topic to take center stage in the midst of COVID-19 concerns.

Per CBS Sports, Nick Carparelli, Executive Director of the Football Bowl Association, has submitted a waiver to the NCAA seeking elimination of bowl eligibility requirements with a decision coming as early as next week.

Traditionally, teams qualified for bowl games with a winning record (6 wins being the magic number) as schools could count on the non-conference schedule to build a resume. The Kentucky wildcats’ original 12-game schedule for 2020 featured non-conference games with Toledo, Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Eastern Illinois and Louisville that could have arguably produced five wins for the Wildcats on its way to another bowl appearance.

However, the revised 2020 schedule features a 10-game conference only slate that just might be the most difficult in school history as the SEC is loaded once again with eight teams in the newest AP Top 25 college football poll with Alabama (2), Georgia (4), Florida (5), LSU (6), Auburn (8), Texas A&M (10), Tennessee (16) and Kentucky (23) all represented.

The Wildcats will play road games at Auburn, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama and Florida with Ole Miss, Mississippi State, Georgia, Missouri and Vanderbilt all coming to Kroger Field.

To make things even more challenging, the sights and sounds of the upcoming season will be much different with limited fans and bans on tailgating to comply with social distancing. All the more reasons for Kentucky coach Mark Stoops to look to a veteran team to harness some intrinsic motivation to start the new year.

“It can only challenge us even more,” said Stoops when asked in the preseason about how to prepare his team for an all SEC schedule in 2020. “But it is what it is. I feel like this is the deepest team since I’ve been here...we’re a deep team with some experience (and) that has to help when we’re playing 10 conference games because we all know how difficult that can be, how taxing that will be on our players and our coaches so it will be a real challenge.”

The good news is that Kentucky returns key personnel on both sides of the ball as the Wildcat offense will be anchored by one of the nation’s best offensive lines (Drake Jackson, Landon Young, Darian Kinnard, Luke Fortner and Ken Horsey) that can clear the way for returning quarterback Terry Wilson and the backfield of AJ Rose, Kavosiey Smoke and Chris Rodriguez. The defense will be led by linebackers Boogie Watson, Jordan Wright, Jamin Davis and DeAndre Square.

Under Stoops, Kentucky has made four straight bowl appearances since 2016, playing in the TaxSlayer Bowl (2016), Music City Bowl (2017), Citrus Bowl (2018) and Belk Bowl (2019). Last season, the Wildcats closed the season with a 37-30 win over Virginia Tech in the Belk Bowl at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, North Carolina.

With a reduced number of games this year, the NCAA will now have to look at a different matrix for bowl participation that might include a combination of rankings, strength of schedule or even the “eye test” to determine which teams will make it to the postseason.

The Wildcats kick off the 2020 season at Noon ET on Saturday at Auburn.