As I sit here on a Sunday night watching the boring matches of the Survivor Series mid-card (yes I am a grown man, but a good PPV is still worth my time), I have been reading many scenarios online about the UK Bowl game possibilities. Most are from national writers who do a very good job putting for the national landscape and who have Kentucky basically headed to one of four Bowl Games. However, there view is macro and what most of us care about in Kentucky is on the micro level…specifically, what Bowl game is UK going to play in and who are the Cats possible opponents? I spent some time this morning calling a couple of sources on the team side and the Bowl side (I always talk to them when they come to games and give free things) and from those conversations, I think the scenario is fairly simple AS OF NOW (an important caveat):
LOSE AGAINST LOUISVILLE
I open with this scenario only because it is the most straight forward. As one source told me this morning, “if Kentucky loses to Louisville, I would put the probability very high that they play in the Liberty Bowl.” As most of you know by now, the Liberty Bowl is one of the Bowls that is in the “Gang of Six” that, which are considered “equal” by the SEC in bowl placement. As with most things deemed “equal”, some of the Bowls are a bit more “equal” than others, but in general when you are in that group, your relative standing amongst the other teams is an important factor, but not the sole factor. If Kentucky loses to Louisville, it will be 7-5 and the Liberty Bowl is by far the most likely destination. That Bowl wants Kentucky (due to proximity and no recent appearances) and the Cats have no conflicts of importance around that time that would hinder the pick. If Kentucky loses to the Cards, Memphis is our likely destination, absent a huge shift of events in the final weekend.
As for the Cats’ opponent, it is a bit more up in the air, due to the how close the Big 12 Conference standings are at this time. But a source told me on Saturday, “the loser of Texas-West Virginia is the heavy favorite for Memphis” and that ended up being the Mountaineers. If WVU were to play Kentucky in Memphis, the Eastern part of the state would have the game they have longed for and both fan bases could travel in mass to the destination. If Kentucky ends up 7-5, this is the most likely result…with Iowa State as the second most likely opponent right after.
WIN AGAINST LOUISVILLE
This is a much more complicated scenario and depends a great deal on what happens in the other games on the weekend. However the most simple version is this…if Kentucky wins and finishes 8-4, the Music City becomes the most likely destination. A sources tells me that Kentucky has communicated to the SEC office that the basketball game being the same day (at 1 pm) would not change the school’s desire for the Bowl, and I think a win against the Cards probably moves Kentucky to Nashville…with Iowa the most likely opponent, in a game that would mean a great deal for Mark Stoops.
If Kentucky does win against the Cards, three other Bowls are in play but a bit harder for placement reasons. One is the Outback, the most prestigious of the Six Bowls, but a source told me today that Kentucky’s finish down the stretch may prohibit that game as the goal from the league standpoint is to put the team playing the best at the end of the season in this marquee New Year’s Day Bowl. The Belk Bowl is unfortunately probably a non-starter due to it being at the same time as the UK-UL Basketball game. That game time means everyone involved, the Bowl Game, the two tv networks, the SEC and Kentucky see a dilution of audience for both events and such a scenario is not favored by anyone. The TaxSlayer would likely be the Bowl that Kentucky would most naturally be “slotted” for with its 8-4 season but UK’s ability to get tin the game last year, means it won’t be as likely this season. The SEC tries to keep teams from the same game in the Group of Six two years in a row….thus because the Cats played “up a Bowl” last year, they may not get the benefit of it this year, even though it would be where its record would deserve. Thus the Music City becomes the most likely scenario.
A win could also see a Liberty Bowl appearance, but according to one source, “a lot would have to happen” to make that in play, and since my head hurts and the big five-man tag is on the Horizon, we will leave that for another day.
Have a good evening everyone (and if you like to laugh, watch “American Vandal” on Netflix)