This afternoon, Kentucky was officially invited to the Music City Bowl to compete against No. 20 Northwestern on December 29 at 4:30 p.m.
The all-Wildcat matchup will be UK’s first Music City Bowl in eight years, and it’ll certainly be a tough one.
Let’s look at Kentucky’s bowl opponent:
Northwestern is on a seven-game win streak
After falling to Penn State 31-7 back in October and starting the season 2-3, the Wildcats have won seven straight games, including three consecutive overtime victories. In their last two outings, they have outscored opponents by a total score of 81-7.
Needless to say, they’re cooking.
That being said, just two of Northwestern’s opponents in that span had a winning record and three were .500 or above.
Two of those were overtime victories, and the third was by just 10 points. They were also demolished by Duke on the road in the second game of the season, proving they’re not immune to bad games.
They’ve been beating the teams they should be, but they’ve had to fight for the solid wins.
They have a stellar defense
According to some of the stats released by Corey Price of UK Athletics’ Cat Scratches, the Northwestern Wildcats are absolute studs on the defensive side of the ball.
Here are just a few statistics:
- Tied for 10th in the FBS in running plays from scrimmage allowed of at least 20 yards (10)
Tied for 7th in the FBS in opponents’ red zone scoring (71.05%)
- Tied for 9th in the FBS in opponents’ 4th down conversions (33.33%)
9th in the FBS in rushing defense (111.25 yards per game
19th in the FBS in scoring defense (19.8 points per game)
Northwestern is tied for 5th in the FBS in fumbles forced per game (1.33)
Yeah, that’s pretty impressive.
Northwestern is the 37th-best total defense in America, compared to UK listed at No. 89.
Benny Snell has been a superstar for Kentucky, rushing for 31 touchdowns and over 2500 yards from scrimmage in his young career, but he has his work cut out for him against this stout Wildcat defense.
The Wildcats outrank Kentucky on offense too
Their defense is scary good, but Northwestern’s offensive attack is just as impressive. They maintain the No. 60 offense in the nation compared to Kentucky’s No. 100.
In the passing department, they are ranked 54th in the country compared to UK coming in at 101st in the country. Kentucky’s rushing attack is better at 54th in America, compared to Northwestern at No. 71, though they still have an 1100-yard rusher in Justin Jackson.
Junior quarterback Clayton Thorson has thrown for 2,809 yards and 15 touchdowns along with 12 interceptions, showing both good and bad this season.
Northwestern is tied for 126th in college football in offensive plays from scrimmage of at least 30 yards at just 14, meaning they will attempt to dink-and-dunk Kentucky all day long. They score touchdowns on 72% attempts in the red zone, good for 18th in the nation.
They inch their way down the field, milk the clock, and score touchdowns. That’s a recipe for success if I’ve ever seen one.
They are coached by a former All-American
From 1993-1996, Pat Fitzgerald dominated the linebacker position for Northwestern. He is a two-time winner of the Bronko Nagurski Trophy (1995, 1996), two-time winner of the Chuck Bednarik Award (1995, 1996), two-time Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (1995, 1996), and two-time Consensus All-American (1995, 1996).
Oh, and he was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2008.
In 2006, he was named head coach of his alma mater, and has accumulated a total record of 86–65 and seven bowl-eligible seasons for the Wildcats.
Needless to say, he’s well-respected in Evanston, Illinois.
The Wildcats are 2-5 in bowl games under Fitzgerald, but don’t let that fool you. Kentucky is going heads up with an incredible football mind on December 29.
They almost got snowed-out in early November
Northwestern hosted Purdue in their first November night game in program history, and it almost got snowed out.
Just a few days before the game, the stadium was blanketed in snow, and the field crew had their work cut out for them to get it prepared.
Take a look:
There’s supposed to be a Purdue-Northwestern football game played here in 30 hours… pic.twitter.com/r1JUgeiA82
— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) November 10, 2017
Let’s hope we don’t see similar weather in Nashville in a few weeks.
They have a brand new facility
Northwestern is currently finishing construction on a 500,000 square-foot, $260-million athletics facility for the football team that is set to open this Spring.
Here’s what it looks like:
The inside look of the facility is pretty ridiculous…
Good thing they haven’t been able to utilize that just yet.
I love the Joe Craft Football Training Facility as much as the next guy, but color me jealous of this lakeside beauty.
Similar to last year, Kentucky got matched up with a darn good football team in their bowl game.