Kentucky football bowl projections split between Citrus, Outback on Selection Sunday

·4 min read

NOTE: The Citrus Bowl confirmed Sunday afternoon it had selected Kentucky to face Iowa in its game. For more about the matchup, read here.

LEXINGTON - Big Blue Nation will learn where Kentucky football is bowling Sunday afternoon.

Alabama, Michigan, Georgia and Cincinnati were revealed as the four College Football Playoff teams shortly after noon on ESPN. The network will reveal the rest of the playoff committee's final top 25 ranking and the New Year's Six bowl assignments at 2:30 p.m.

From there, the rest of the bowl games will be free to announce their selections.

Kentucky should not have to wait long to learn where it is bowling after the top 25 is announced. With Alabama and Georgia both in the playoff, Ole Miss will be the SEC's representative in the Sugar Bowl. The Citrus Bowl, which has first pick of SEC teams after the New Year's Six games are filled, is expected to pick between Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas A&M.

"We feel like we can’t lose, honestly,” Citrus Bowl CEO Steve Hogan told the Courier Journal earlier this week. “I know you hear that a lot, but you feel like you can’t lose with any one of those three.”

Kentucky football bowl projections: How the Citrus Bowl will pick between Kentucky, Arkansas and Texas A&M

Arkansas (8-4, 4-4) was ranked highest of the three teams in last week's CFP ranking at No. 22, but Kentucky (9-3, 5-3) checked in just one spot below at No. 23 and has one more win than the Razorbacks. Thanks to Arkansas's September win over No. 25 Texas A&M (8-4, 4-4), the Aggies are a long shot for the Citrus Bowl.

If the Citrus Bowl, scheduled for New Year's Day in Orlando, Florida, picks Arkansas over Kentucky, the Wildcats will almost certainly play in the Outback Bowl, scheduled for New Year's Day in Tampa, Florida.

The Outback Bowl is part of the SEC's "Pool of Six" games (Outback, Gator, Texas, Music City, Duke's Mayo and Liberty). The league assigns teams to games in the pool, but takes into account the preferences of both schools and the bowls while working to avoid repeat matchups and trips.

As the SEC's only 9-win and highest-ranked team available at that point, Kentucky should have first pick of its destination. UK coach Mark Stoops has been clear since the blowout of rival Louisville to close the regular season that his program was aiming for a New Year's Day bowl in Florida. The Outback Bowl would be the last option to fulfill that goal.

Both the Citrus Bowl and Outback Bowl would match Kentucky against a Big Ten team.

Kentucky football bowl projections: Will the Citrus Bowl pick UK? Comparing resumes with Arkansas, Texas A&M

Kentucky will play in its sixth consecutive bowl game. The Wildcats have won their last three bowl games, including last season's win over NC State in the Gator Bowl to cap a 5-6 season.

With a win in the bowl, UK would secure just the third-double digit win season in program history.

A New Year's Day bowl game would represent a successful end to a season had fans dreaming of a possible berth in the playoff after a 6-0 start but had lost almost all its momentum after three consecutive losses to Georgia, Mississippi State and Tennessee.

Kentucky bounced back with wins over overmatched foes Vanderbilt and New Mexico State then closed the regular season on a high note with a 52-21 blowout of Louisville in the Governor's Cup rivalry game.

The bowl game should give Kentucky an important opportunity to rewrite the narrative of its season.

October wins over Florida and LSU were thought to be marquee victories at the time, but both of those teams have struggled down the stretch and ended up firing their coaches. Kentucky did not beat an FBS team in the regular season with a winning record, but it did beat five teams eligible for a bowl game at 6-6.

Latest Kentucky football bowl projections

  • Kyle Bonagura (ESPN): Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa

  • Steve Lassan (Athlon): Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa

  • Stewart Mandel (The Athletic): Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa

  • Brett McMurphy (Action Network): Citrus Bowl vs. Iowa

  • Jerry Palm (CBS Sports): Outback Bowl vs. Wisconsin

  • Mark Schlabach (ESPN): Outback Bowl vs. Minnesota

  • Erick Smith (USA TODAY): Outback Bowl vs. Wis

Email Jon Hale at jahale@courier-journal.com; Follow him on Twitter at @JonHale_CJ.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky football bowl game 2021: Citrus, Outback are options

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