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UK Football: Is the Music City Bowl a must win?

Mike Edwards (Vicky Graff Photo)

By KEITH PEEL, Contributing Writer

The University of Kentucky Football Team plays Northwestern University in the Music City Bowl in Nashville, Tennessee on Friday. There has been a lot of talk about how important this game is to the UK Football program. But is it really?

Most observers of UK Football are saying this is a must win for the Blue and White. The saying goes that after blowout losses to Georgia and Louisville this program needs a shot in the arm to get momentum going back in a positive direction. I don’t think so.

Don’t get me wrong. A win would be great. Positive national exposure for UK Football is always beneficial but let’s get this straight. Three to four extra weeks of practice for underclassmen who will have to step into key roles next year is the real benefit of any bowl game for UK Football at this point in the program’s development. Getting young guys out on the field for more reps with the first or second team is invaluable going into spring practice in 2018.

All the negatives of losing this game have also been mentioned. Negatives like fan enthusiasm will be down for 2018, potential players won’t want to sign after a bowl loss or how an SEC school like UK will lose respect nationally if they lose to a Big Ten school like Northwestern.

The reality of the situation is that fan enthusiasm is already down. Winning this game might help to bring it up a little but at the end of the day beating Northwestern in a mid-level bowl game will not erase the sting of getting blown out by Georgia and Louisville to end the season. The only elixir for that pain is a much better performance in 2018.

That leads me to the next point about potential high level recruits not signing with UK if they lose to Northwestern. That doesn’t appear to be true because UK signed a bunch of high level recruits in early 2017 after their blowout loss to Georgia Tech in the Taxslayer Bowl last year. Included in that class of recruits was the number three best player out of the state of Ohio, Lynn Bowden, not to mention four-star players Tyrell Ajian, Josh Paschal, Yusuf Corker and Javonte Richardson. This year the early December signing date allowed UK to sign 20 players in a class that included Marquan McCall, the No. 4 best offensive guard in the country per Rivals, No. 5 best JUCO player in the country, quarterback Terry Wilson, along with four-star players Stanley Garner, Deandre Square, Darian Kinnard, Brendan Bates and Max Duffy.

As for UK losing respect by potentially losing to a Big Ten school like Northwestern. The reality of the situation is that UK is over-matched in this game. According to the gambling experts in Las Vegas UK is more than a touchdown underdog to a team that is 9-3 and currently ranked No. 20 in the country. These odds haven’t deterred many gamblers from looking for a promo code here for the upcoming game, however. Similar to their situation last year against Georgia Tech the Wildcats will have to play one of their best games of the year to pull off the upset. Not impossible but unlikely without the services of star players like CJ Conrad and Denzil Ware.

At the end of the day the true value of this game is that it allows young players to practice more, it keeps the UK Football name in the media for a few more weeks and it affords the Seniors an opportunity to go out on a winning note – which would be great for guys like Stephen Johnson and Courtney Love. But most importantly, win or lose, the UK Wildcats will get the opportunity to continue their season for one more game. Something that teams like Florida, Tennessee, Ole Miss, Arkansas and Vanderbilt can’t say.

3 comments

  1. I agree with a lot of what you say KP, but a loss is never good for program building. UK needs this win, my goodness Stoops’ needs this win on his resume. Lose this one and he is 0-2 in bowls played under his watch. A win may not hurt over-all recruiting, but it can’t possibly help either.

  2. Bowl games are just for fun in most cases. People know the teams have had a 3-4 week layoff and a lot of top players going into the draft don’t even play for their team. The bowl game, in a lot of cases is a look ahead and that is where Stoops needs to concentrate. Another year like this one, and his seat will get real hot. Yes, he had a decent record, but he didn’t really beat a team that showed UK had made improvements. Like I have said before, there is very little you can say this team is really good at and that has to change. When you are making the same mistakes in game 11 that you made earlier in the season, that does not show the kind of improvement UK needs.

  3. This is definitely a must win game for the coaching staff. Many of us have been questioning the lack of even average SEC coaching credentials, and a loss would add additional fuel to this sentiment. Stoops came in here with supposedly strong defensive credits, put a hell of a sales close on Barnhart and then Barney gets sucked into a fatally flawed high, long term contract for no prior HC experience. It worked at UGA immediately and at others and will probably pay 1st or 2nd yr dividends at UT, but in year 5 we have parts of our defense ranked 113th in the country. Our 3 biggest challenges of the year outscored us 3-4 to 1 to end the season. A win keeps some hangers on dangling until next year, and it is difficult to see 7 wins being here a year from now so with no coaching changes after this year or next we are doomed to repeat some bad history. I am not sure we can count on even 1-2 SEC wins next year. A win tomorrow will hopefully pull in a couple of non commits from now to February and a loss could possibly put a couple of losses at risk.

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