Kentucky football may need some help during the regular season’s final weekend to avoid its worst-case bowl scenarios.
Of course, upsetting No. 10 Louisville would go a long way to accomplishing that goal, but even with a win in the Governor’s Cup rivalry Kentucky could be knocked to the lowest tier of SEC bowls if results fall the wrong way elsewhere around the league this weekend.
Tuesday’s College Football Playoff committee rankings have three SEC teams in position for a New Year’s Six bowl berth: Georgia, Alabama and Missouri. Losses for Alabama or Missouri to Auburn and Arkansas respectively this weekend might drop those teams out of the top 10 and New Year’s Six bowl positions. That would create a cascading effect where the other SEC teams are knocked down a level in the league’s bowl selection process. A 6-6 Kentucky team would be at risk of falling to the Birmingham or Gasparilla bowls in that scenario. If both Alabama and Missouri lost this weekend, Kentucky might fall to the lowest tier of SEC bowls even at 7-5.
A South Carolina win over Clemson would make the Gamecocks bowl-eligible. If Kentucky also loses to Louisville, South Carolina would have an edge over Kentucky when the SEC assigns teams to its mid-tier “Pool of Six” bowls (ReliaQuest, Gator, Texas, Music City, Duke’s Mayo and Liberty) thanks to last week’s head-to-head victory. However, a Florida upset of Florida State could add further complications.
While UK did beat Florida, the Gators beat South Carolina. It is unclear how the SEC would decide which team is left out of the “Pool of Six” games if Kentucky, South Carolina, Florida and Auburn all finish at 6-6 with 3-5 SEC records, but the bowl games’ preference might be the deciding factor.
If the favorites hold serve during rivalry weekend, Ole Miss would be in position for the Citrus Bowl, which has first pick of SEC teams after the playoff committee fills the New Year’s Six games. That would leave LSU, Tennessee and Texas A&M as the top three teams in the “Pool of Six.” It would be logical to slot those teams in the ReliaQuest, Gator and Texas bowls, but those projections could be thrown into flux if any of those teams rank the Music City Bowl or Duke’s Mayo Bowl higher on their priority list.
When the SEC has not had enough bowl-eligible teams to fill its “Pool of Six” games, the Liberty Bowl has taken a team from another league instead. If Georgia, Alabama and Missouri remain in the top 10 and none of Florida, South Carolina or Mississippi State earn their sixth win this weekend, the Liberty Bowl would probably be left without an SEC team again.
Kentucky will not play in the Music City Bowl since it played there last season and the SEC tries to avoid repeat trips in its “Pool of Six” assignments. The most recent bowl projections have coalesced around Kentucky in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl but this weekend’s results could still change the picture drastically.
Here is a look at the latest projections for Kentucky heading into the Governor’s Cup rivalry.
Kentucky football bowl projections
247Sports (Brad Crawford): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Duke
Action Network (Brett McMurphy): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Duke
Athlon (Steve Lassan): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Duke
CBSSports (Jerry Palm): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Duke
ESPN (Kyle Bonagura): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Georgia Tech
ESPN (Mark Schlabach): Duke’s Mayo Bowl vs. Virginia Tech
FoxSports (Bryan Fischer): Liberty Bowl vs. UCF
SEC ‘Pool of Six’ bowl games
▪ Tax Act Texas Bowl (Houston, Texas): Dec. 27 vs. Big 12
▪ Duke’s Mayo Bowl (Charlotte, North Carolina): Dec. 27 vs. ACC
▪ TaxSlayer Gator Bowl (Jacksonville, Florida): Dec. 29 vs. ACC
▪ AutoZone Liberty Bowl (Memphis, Tennessee): Dec. 29 vs. Big 12
▪ Transperfect Music City Bowl (Nashville, Tennessee): Dec. 30 vs. Big Ten
▪ ReliaQuest Bowl (Tampa, Florida): Jan. 1 vs. Big Ten/ACC
Kentucky at No. 9 Louisville
When: Noon Saturday
Radio: WLAP-AM 630, WBUL-FM 98.1
Records: Kentucky 6-5 (3-5 SEC), Louisville 10-1 (7-1 ACC)
Series: Kentucky leads 19-15
Last meeting: Kentucky won 26-13 on Nov. 26, 2022, in Lexington