LEXINGTON, Ky. (KT) — Kentucky’s bowl destination is set.
The Wildcats will take on Big 10 member Northwestern in the Music City Bowl set for 3:30 p.m. on Dec. 29 at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.
“We’re very excited to have earned another bowl bid and honored to receive an invitation from the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl,” UK coach Mark Stoops said. “Kentucky has a long history with this game and fans love going to Nashville. Taking on Northwestern will be a great challenge and we look forward to an exciting game.”
Kentucky senior quarterback Stephen Johnson agreed.
"Everyone is really amped up about it," he said. "Most of us really wanted to go to the Music City so most of us are really happen to get that chance to go out with a final bang and go play one more last bowl game."
Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart wasn't concerned about having two major sporting events on the same day. The Kentucky men’s basketball team plays Louisville at 1 p.m. on the same day.
"I don’t look at it as a problem," he said. "I look at it as a great opportunity and unbelievable celebration. I don’t know that there’s probably too many schools that have the incredible opportunity to have two showcase opportunities in one day for your two marquee programs. That’s really, really a special opportunity. Again, I got back to how do we respond to that as an administration, as teams and fans? I think it’s a really cool deal.”
Kentucky (7-5) made three appearances in the Music City Bowl during an unprecedented five-year postseason run from 2006-11. The Wildcats split a pair of games with Clemson, defeating the Tigers 28-20 in 2006, followed by a 21-13 setback to the defending national champions in their last appearance in Nashville in 2009. Overall, Kentucky is 2-2 in the Music City Bowl. Kentucky dropped a 20-13 setback to Syracuse in its first Music City Bowl appearance in 1999.
“We are proud to participate in the 20th Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl and thankful to Scott Ramsey and the Nashville Sports Council for the invitation," Barnhart said. “Congratulations to Coach Stoops and our team for reaching a bowl game for a second season in a row. The Big Blue Nation has made Nashville a second home for us and fan support is going to be so important as our team works for its eighth win. Dec. 29 is going to be a big day for the University of Kentucky.”
Although Kentucky opened the season at 5-1, the Wildcats went 2-4 following the lone bye week of the season, a stack of setbacks that included blowout losses to Mississippi State, Georgia and Louisville. Kentucky was outscored 86-30 by Southeastern Conference champion Georgia and rival Louisville during the final two weeks of the regular season. Both teams scored more than 40 points against Kentucky’s defense.
The Wildcats lost to Georgia Tech 33-18 in the TaxSlayer Bowl last year in Jacksonville, the team’s first postseason appearance in seven years. Kentucky will be making its seventh postseason appearance in the past 11 years.
Kentucky and Northwestern haven’t played since 1928 when the Wildcats yanked out a 7-0 victory. Northwestern (9-3) has won seven in a row since a 31-7 loss to Penn State on Oct. 7.
Keith Taylor is sports editor for Kentucky Today. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter @keithtaylor21.