Kentucky vs. Northwestern: Music City Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Kentucky vs. Northwestern: Music City Bowl Prediction, Game Preview

Teams & Conferences

Kentucky vs. Northwestern: Music City Bowl Prediction, Game Preview


Three reasons why you should watch the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl, why each team might win, honest thoughts, line and prediction.


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Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl
Northwestern (9-3) vs. Kentucky (7-5)

Broadcast

Date: Friday, December 29th
Game Time: 4:30 pm
Venue: Nissan Stadium, Nashville, TN
Network: ESPN

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The Bowl Matchup Ranking Of Awesomeness
(1 best-39 worst): 
30 out of 39

2017-2018 Bowl Central: Schedules, Picks, Love
CFN Expert Consensus Confidence Picks

Three Reasons Why You Should Watch The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Northwestern games are always interesting. Forgetting the three straight overtime wins in the middle of the season, the offense figured it out late in the year with wins over Minnesota and Illinois by a combined score of 81-7. These Wildcats always come strong in the bowl season under Pat Fitzgerald when it’s playing someone its own size. Kentucky is Northwestern’s size.

– Kentucky needs to come into this sharp. It’s not enough just to get into a bowl like it did last year. Now it has to win one of these things for the first time in a long while. After losing three of the last four games this year, and four of the last six, this is a prove it time for this coaching staff.

The Music City has been steadily fantastic over the years, with 11 of the last 13 decided by eight points or fewer. Even last year’s Tennessee 38-24 win over Nebraska wasn’t without its charm – at least it was entertaining. The two Wildcat teams are on equal footing.

Here’s Why Kentucky Will Win The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Get ready for lots and lots of Benny Snell. The UK running back has an interesting game with good breakaway speed in a 5-11, 223-pound frame. The Cats are going to steadily feed him after his 1,318-yard, 18 touchdown season against a Northwestern run defense that’s been terrific all season long, but will be tested.

There is absolutely no Northwestern vertical threat to worry about.  The Big Ten Wildcats might have a fringe NFL quarterback in Clayton Thorson – who’s coming back for his final year – but they don’t stretch the field in any way averaging a paltry 11 yards per completion. UK simply has to make the tackle and not allow yards after the catch against this dink-and-dunk attack.

If Kentucky wants to throw, this is the time to do it. Northwestern will pick off passes, but it’ll also allow a ton of yards. Even with Illinois and Minnesota doing nothing, this was one of the worst pass defenses in the Big Ten, allowing 225 yards or more in a stretch of eight games in a nine date stretch. Just don’t throw interceptions, Stephen Johnson, and the downfield passes will be there.

Here’s Why Northwestern Will Win The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

Yeah, Northwestern likes the short-to-midrange throws, but Thorson should be able to dink and dunk on this Kentucky defense all he wants in a death by 1,000 cuts sort of way. The SEC didn’t exactly have Brady and Roethlisberger in it this year, and still, UK was lit up allowing over 65% of passes to be completed and with only Georgia and Mississippi State – both in blowouts because of their respective running games – failing to hit the 200-yard mark.

This defense doesn’t like to allow anyone to do anything on third downs. Who led the Big Ten in third down D? Not Wisconsin, not Ohio State, and not Michigan. The Wildcats allowed teams to convert just under 38% of their third down plays – it all plays into the system. UK doesn’t have enough firepower on offense to not keep the chains moving, and it won’t because …

The NU run defense is a killer. As good as Snell is, and as dangerous as Stephen Johnson can be when he gets going, Northwestern hasn’t allowed much of anything on the ground. Wisconsin came up with just 198 yards, Michigan State was held to 95, and Saquon Barkley was stuffed until he tore off a late run. On the year, the Wildcats have allowed over 200 yards once – in the early loss to Duke – and under 100 yards in six of the last ten games.

You’ve Read This Far, So You Get Three Honest Thoughts On The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl

C’mon, Kentucky. It’s not enough just to get here. The last UK bowl win was over East Carolina at the end of the 2008 season in the Liberty. Since then, the program has gone 0-3 with losses in the 2009 Music City to Clemson, the 2011 BBVA Compass to Pitt, and last year, in the TaxSlayer to Georgia Tech.

This would be absolutely massive for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. A win would make it two ten-win seasons in the last three and three in the last six. Fitzgerald might not be the hot coaching star he used to be, and he’s being seen more as a Northwestern lifer, but what he continues to do with this program is nothing short of amazing. Remember, Northwestern isn’t used to winning bowl games. With a win, Fitzgerald will have come up with three of the program’s four all-time post-season victories.

Thorson can create a bit of a buzz with a big game. He has NFL tools and talent, but no one’s putting him in the Darnold, Rosen, Allen, Jackson category. He’s coming back for one more year, and with the way these things work, one big bowl game that everyone sees will form the narrative going into 2018.

Super. So Who’s Going To Win The Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl?

Kentucky struggles too much with good passers and solid running games, but Northwestern struggles too much with decent teams.

Don’t expect any sort of a wild shootout. These two have the ability to put up big points, but they’re not the type to trade blows in any sort of crazy brawl.

Slow and steady wins the race. In this, the Northwestern run defense will be the difference.

Final Score

Northwestern 27, Kentucky 23
More Bowl Info & Get Tickets

Line

Northwestern -7.5, o/u: 51

ATS Confidence: 3
5: Being in the bar already
0: Watching ball drop … and then trying to get into the bar

Must See Rating: 3.5
5: New Year’s Eve: Ministry of Sound, Defected London NYE
0: New Year’s Eve with Maroon 5, Las Vegas

Music City Bowl History, Results

Dec. 30, 2016 Tennessee 38, Nebraska 24
Dec. 30, 2015 Louisville 27 Texas A&M 21
Dec. 30, 2014 Notre Dame 31 LSU 28
Dec. 30, 2013 Mississippi 25 Georgia Tech 17
Dec. 31, 2012 Vanderbilt 38 N.C. State 24
Dec. 30, 2011 Mississippi State 23 Wake Forest 17
Dec. 30, 2010 North Carolina 30 Tennessee 27 (2 OT)
Dec. 27, 2009 Clemson 21 Kentucky 13
Dec. 31, 2008 Vanderbilt 16 Boston College 14
Dec. 31, 2007 Kentucky 35 Florida State 28
Dec. 29, 2006 Kentucky 28 Clemson 20
Dec. 30, 2005 Virginia 34 Minnesota 31
Dec. 31, 2004 Minnesota 20 Alabama 16
Dec. 31, 2003 Auburn 28 Wisconsin 14
Dec. 30, 2002 Minnesota 29 Arkansas 14
Dec. 28, 2001 Boston College 20 Georgia 16
Dec. 28, 2000 West Virginia 49 Mississippi 38
Dec. 29, 1999 Syracuse 20 Kentucky 13
Dec. 29, 1998 Virginia Tech 38 Alabama 7

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