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Everything you need for Wildcats vs. Hawkeyes in the Citrus Bowl.

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Syndication: HawkCentral Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

Kentucky Football vs. Iowa Hawkeyes

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The 2022 VRBO Citrus Bowl is here.

In what will be the sixth straight bowl game for Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats Football team, the Cats will face-off in a prime-time slot against the Iowa Hawkeyes on New Year’s Day.

This season was another step in the right direction for the Kentucky program.

Despite a three-game skid in the heart of the schedule, this team showed the hard-nosed mentality of their head coach and has stepped onto the door step of being a contender for the SEC East crown.

Kentucky will be led into Camping World Stadium on Saturday by Will Levis. Quickly becoming a fan favorite across all of Big Blue Nation, the junior quarterback officially won over the fanbase with his announcement of his return for next season. Add in the way he dominated the Louisville defense to end the season, and there might not be a more confident player on the field Saturday.

Alongside Levis, Kentucky will also have two of the best playmakers offensively in the matchup in Wan’Dale Robinson and Chris Rodriguez. The junior wide receiver-running back duo accounted for 15 touchdowns and over 2,400 yards combined this season. In what could be the final game for both players in a Kentucky uniform, expect both to come out with their feet on the gas from the start.

The Cats will also be without starting wide-outs Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps, after both suffered injuries in a car accident. Ali will pursue his professional career, while Epps put his name into the transfer portal earlier this week.

On defense, some good news was received on Wednesday as Josh Paschal returned to practice, which points to at least seeing Paschal for a few snaps on Saturday. The senior defensive end will be playing his final game in the blue and white before hearing his name called in the NFL Draft in April.

Alongside Paschal, Deandre Square and Jacquez Jones have been one of the best linebacker duos in the conference. For both players, this could be their last game for UK, but rumors have been swirling of a return to Lexington for both players.

For Iowa, their season seemed to be on the verge of a College Football Playoff berth at one point.

The Hawkeyes defeated Iowa State and Penn State early in the season, which pushed them to be considered the No. 2 overall team in the country. Insert Jeff Brohm and the Purdue Boilermakers.

Kirk Ferentz’s squad has once again become one of the best defenses in the country. Linebacker Jack Campbell leads the charge, as he has totaled 126 tackles on the season. The Hawkeyes don’t get a ton of tackles for loss, but they do force teams to grind out yards and not make mistakes. On the season this defensive unit has forced 24 interceptions as well as four forced fumbles, which results in one of the best turnover margins in the country.

Offensively, this team is a different story.

Over the course of the season, Iowa has struggled to put up a ton of points when teams do not turn the ball over against them. On the season, they average 23.9 points per game while producing 177.7 passing yards and 119.8 rushing yards per game.

The Hawkeyes will also be without their starting running back Tyler Goodson on Saturday. They also may have a quarterback decision to make as Spencer Petras could be out. If Petras is out alongside Goodson, the Iowa offense could have a tough time getting going in Orlando.

As Coach Stoops faces off against his alma mater he has the chance to secure his second 10-win season. If the Kentucky offense continues to show improvement and their defense stands tall in stopping the explosive plays, it should be a solid win for this UK program.

If you needed any more reason to get hyped for this game, check out this offering from Kentucky Wildcats TV that’s narrated by none other than Lynn Bowden Jr., who helped the Cats win the 2018-19 Citrus Bowl vs. Penn State.

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