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The history of the Music City Bowl

Last year’s game was one of the best ever.

Syndication: Journal-Courier Nikos Frazier / Journal & Courier / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Music City Bowl, played in Nashville since its inception in 1998, is not super old like the Citrus, Sun, or Gator, but is still one of the best non-New Year’s Six bowl games every December that seems to regularly host great matchups in front of larger-than-usual bowl crowds in one of the South’s greatest cities.

It also is the Music City Bowl—no sponsor has stolen its title but all of them have been forced to stand behind the words “Music City” before spurting their brand everywhere. This season marks the 24th edition, with Kentucky facing Iowa as UK plays in the bowl for the 6th time in program history—more than any other school—and Iowa for the 1st. The first Music City Bowl was at Vanderbilt Stadium in 1998, then once the Titans’ Nissan Stadium was finished was moved there the following year and has remained there ever since. The bowl has always featured an SEC team, and they’ve faced Big East, Big Ten, and ACC opponents in the past and since 2017 have played the Big Ten annually. Let’s look at some of the best moments in Music City Bowl history:

Biggest Upset: UK beats Clemson 28-20 as +10 underdog in 2006

7-5 Kentucky under Rich Brooks pulled a little surprise on everybody when Andre Woodson and the ‘Cats snuck past 8-4 Clemson, who had been ranked most of the season but trailed by as many as 16 in the 4th quarter in the 8-point loss.

Most Lopsided Score: 63 Auburn, 14 Purdue 2018

Purdue fans went home early during this one—the halftime score was 56-7 Tigers.

Highest Attendance: Purdue vs Tennessee 2021

When Rocky Top is bowling in Nashville after an exciting season, you know the fans are going to show up. 69,489 strong showed up for the best Music City Bowl ever. More on that below:

Best games:

#3: Boston College vs #16 Georgia 2001 (BC 20, UGA 16)

The Eagles scored a pretty unlikely upset over the Dawgs in 2001 as they scored a touchdown with under five to go and held on for a 20-16 win over an 8-3 ranked Georgia favorite.

#2: North Carolina vs Tennessee 2010 (UNC 30, TENN 27 2OT)

This game is notable for double overtime and also for the end of regulation that prompted a rule change. Carolina was scrambling to get a field goal team on before time expired as they trailed by three, but too many players ran on resulting in a flag. Well that flag meant the clock also stopped, and they were able to spike the ball with a second left and boot it through for overtime. Now a 10-second runoff is assessed on clock-stopping penalties like those during the final minute of the game—all because of the 2010 Music City Bowl.

#1: Purdue vs Tennessee 2021

Easily the best of ‘em all. Last year’s Music City Bowl was one of the best games of the whole bowl season as Tennessee and Purdue went back and forth in a barnburner that had 98 total points, crazy catches and TD runs, and a walk-off Boilermaker field goal in front of a record crowd of 69,489 going nuts for their schools. It was a bowl that reminded people why having lots of non-playoff bowls is still fun and 100% worth it.