Heading to the Sunshine State for bowl season has become a somewhat normal occurrence for Kentucky football under Mark Stoops.
Three of the last five bowl appearances that Kentucky has made have been in Florida with a win over Penn State in the Citrus Bowl and a victory over NC State in the Gator Bowl. Expectations are for Kentucky to get back to the postseason this year, and the program could make a return trip to Florida.
Jerry Palm of CBS Sports has released his first bowl projections of the season, and the prognosticator is calling for Kentucky to return to the Outback Bowl for the first time in over two decades. Once there, the Wildcats will be seeing a common foe.
On New Year’s Day in Tampa at Raymond James Stadium — or the house that Tom Brady built — the Wildcats would face Penn State and head coach James Franklin for the second time in four seasons. The last clash between the two was quite memorable thanks to some gusto on the sidelines.
“Bring it on! Let’s go! Yeah! Bring it on! Bring it on!” — Mark Stoops to James Franklin after the failed fake punt on Penn State’s first possession.
I’m thinking maybe Stoops is still a tad upset at Franklin for running it up at Vandy against UK a few years back. pic.twitter.com/CcHIILP6cL
— Not Jerry Tipton (@NotJerryTipton) January 1, 2019
The Wildcats have not made a trip to the Outback Bowl since 1998 when Tim Couch led the team to a 7-4 record in Hal Mumme’s second season. In Tampa, Kentucky’s season ended with a loss to Joe Paterno’s Penn State squad led by linebacker LaVar Arrington.
This bowl destination seems like a realistic expectation for the Wildcats in 2021. Kentucky would likely need to have a record of 8-4 or better to get to Tampa, but the schedule sets up well. Kentucky could be a betting favorite in as many as eight or nine games this season. Getting to this bowl game would essentially guarantee that the program would be playing for a spot in the final AP Top 25 poll of the season. This is something the Wildcats have done only twice since 1984.
Elsewhere, Palm calls for Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma to participate in the playoff. Georgia draws Iowa State in the Sugar Bowl while Wisconsin plays Oregon in the Rose Bowl for the second time in three seasons. Texas A&M gets Cincinnati in the Fiesta Bowl while LSU plays Notre Dame in the Peach Bowl. The SEC would be well represented in the playoff and New Year’s Six.
Meanwhile, Arizona State and Indiana are projected to participate in the new and improved Las Vegas Bowl that will take place at Allegiant Stadium. With a 10:30 p.m. ET kickoff, that one will be a scene on Dec. 30.
Football is coming.