There was a point in which the football programs of the Kentucky Wildcats and Northwestern Wildcats were nothing short of shameful. They didn’t have any right competing in their own conferences, and the thought of playing in bowl games was out of the question most years.
But the Wildcats in shades of blue and purple, respectively, are playing at a very high level right now, and that could make the Music City Bowl one of the sneakily good bowl games of the season.
Northwestern Bowl History
Pat Fitzgerald deserves a ton of credit for putting Northwestern football back on the map. He has been in Evanston since 2006, and he is bringing this team to a bowl game for the ninth time in that span. A win in this game would send the school to its tenth victory, tying a school record.
Though Fitzgerald lost his first four bowl appearances at Northwestern, he’s recovered over the course of the last few years, winning the 2012 Gator Bowl and the 2016 Pinstripe Bowl.
The Wildcats only have three bowl victories to their credit, and this would be the first time they’ve won back-to-back postseason games in their history.
Kentucky Bowl History
It took Mark Stoops a while to make up for the horrid Joker Phillips era in Lexington, but he’s done so now with consecutive seven-win seasons. A victory in the Music City Bowl would give the Wildcats their eighth win, tied for the most they’ve had in a season since winning nine games in 1984.
The Big Blue faithful are certainly used to coming to Nashville for their bowl game; this is the fifth time Kentucky has called the Music City Bowl its December home since 1999. The team is 2-2 in that stretch, losing in 1999 and 2009 while winning in 2006 and 2007.
Why Northwestern Will Win the Music City Bowl
You don’t think of Northwestern as one of the hottest teams in America, but this club just has a knack for winning close games. The Wildcats have won seven in a row, including three games in as many weeks in overtime against Iowa, Michigan State and Nebraska.
Lately, the ‘Cats have played their best football, beating Minnesota by 39 and Illinois by 35 to end the regular season.
The late-season run has given Clayton Thorson a slew of attention. He was being projected as a Day 1 or Day 2 pick in the NFL Draft, and a good showing in the Music City Bowl could have taken him a long way up draft boards. But he has decided to return to Evanston in 2018.
Why Kentucky Will Win the Music City Bowl
Throwing the ball might not be Kentucky’s strength, but few teams have as dynamic of a ground game as UK.
The Wildcats are led by Benajmin Snell, a 1,000-yard rusher for the second consecutive season. He has run the ball an average of 21.3 times per game this year, and at an average of 5.1 yards per tote, why shouldn’t he see it 25 or more times in the Music City Bowl?
Music City Bowl Prediction
In a different matchup, we would have loved Kentucky this bowl season. Instead, UK has run into a very difficult foe in Northwestern, and it probably isn’t going to have the degree of success pounding the rock in this one that it is used to.
Outside of a 23-13 win at South Carolina that feels like eons ago, Kentucky hasn’t really beaten much in the way of teams of note. It was crushed in consecutive games to end the regular season by Georgia (42-13) and Louisville (44-17). We suspect the Music City Bowl will be closer, but it’ll be the purple Wildcats celebrating into the night in Nashville.
Music City Bowl Pick: Northwestern 42, Kentucky 24
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