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.