After a tumultuous season filled with frustration, Mark Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats aim to finish the 2022 season on a high note vs. the Iowa Hawkeyes in the Transperfect Music City Bowl.
It’s no secret that the noon kickoff on Saturday, December 31st will directly conflict with the men’s basketball game against the Louisville Cardinals. I’d assume that many members of the Big Blue Nation are planning to flip their televisions back-and-forth from football to hoops, but there’s no getting around the fact that playing a basketball game against your biggest rival at the same time is less than ideal.
All that being said, the Cats are playing in a bowl game, and despite the lack of hype surrounding the matchup, it’s still essential for UK to come out and look ready to play with a national audience tuning in on ABC.
The game will mark a rematch from last year when Kentucky defeated Iowa 20-17 in the Vrbo Citrus Bowl. This will also be the fifth time Kentucky has played in the Music City Bowl since 2006. The Wildcats won the first two trips but have lost two straight, the last being to Northwestern in the 2017 season.
Oddsmakers are casting a pretty big cloud over this game from an entertainment standpoint. The DraftKings Sportsbook lists the over/under at a painstaking 31 points, one of the lowest totals in the history of college football.
Granted, neither team’s offense has proven to be very potent this season, but another big reason to expect such a low-point output in the Transperfect Music City Bowl is the lack of personnel that’ll be available on both sidelines.
Kentucky will be without their two biggest offensive weapons, Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez. On Monday the depth charts were released, and UK is suggesting that three players could all see action under center in Nashville.
Officially, the QB depth chart reads Kaiya Sheron OR Destin Wade OR Deuce Hogan, but signs are pointing to Destin Wade getting his first-ever start.
MUSIC CITY BOWL WEEK— Michael Epps (@MichaelEppsTV) December 29, 2022
Back at Kentucky football practice, Destin Wade taking first team reps at QB here in the portion of practice open to the media. Made some good throws to Barion, Dane and Tayvion.
More on the WRs tonight at 6:30pm on @FOX56News! #BBN pic.twitter.com/M0rrQmXAM0
The hero of the Citrus Bowl, linebacker DeAndre Square, has already announced he won’t play. Brad White will also be down another impactful defensive player with Carrington Valentine declaring for the NFL Draft and opting to not play in the bowl game.
Obviously, Will Levis and Chris Rodriguez will not be available, but the offense will also be missing the services of two playmakers. Tight ends Josh Kattus and Brenden Bates were absent from the depth chart due to injury and won’t be on the field for this one.
For the Hawkeyes, it’ll be much of the same in terms of missing several key contributors, most notably at the quarterback position.
Redshirt freshman Joey Labas will not only his first start but his first-ever collegiate game-action on Saturday against Kentucky. Iowa’s lost its top two options at quarterback after their primary guy, Spencer Petras, was ruled out with an injury and Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal.
Iowa safety Kaevon Merriweather will also miss the game, as he also opted out to prepare for the NFL Draft.
The game’s insanely low point total begins to make more and more sense once you peel back the layers. The lack of experience coupled with rain in the forecast likely makes scoring points a major challenge for both sides.
Regardless of what happened to get to this point, all that matters is winning the bowl game and ideally carrying that momentum into the 2023 season.
The BBN is in a tough spot on Saturday with the identical game times for two important matchups, so keep your remote handy and record one game to watch later if that’s how you roll.
Otherwise, be vigilant with the channel-flipping and try to keep your nerves in check.
Of course, you can follow A Sea of Blue for all of the weekend’s football and basketball updates.
Kentucky Wildcats vs. Iowa Hawkeyes
Time: 12 pm ET on December 31st, 2022
Location: Nissan Stadium — Nashville, Tennessee
TV Channel: ABC
Announcers: Matt Barrie (play-by-play), Louis Riddick (analyst) and SB Nation alum Harry Lyles Jr. (sideline).
Online Stream: Sling TV, WatchESPN, ESPN+ and the ESPN app.
Radio: Tom Leach and Jeff Piecoro have the UK radio network call on 630AM, 98.1 FM in Lexington, and the UK Sports Network.
Weather: High 61F. Winds at 7-8 mph. Chance of rain 19%, per Covers.com.
Odds: DraftKings Sportsbook has Iowa listed as a 2-point favorite.
Score Projection: TeamRankings projects a 17-14 Iowa win.