The University of Kentucky football team will be going to back-to-back bowl games for only the fourth time in school history as the Wildcats have accepted an invitation to return to the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl and will play the Florida State Seminoles.
The game will be Monday, Dec. 31, at 4 p.m. EST (3 p.m. CDT in Nashville) at LP Field, home of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, and the game will be televised live on ESPN.
“We are honored to be selected to participate in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl for 2007,” said Mitch Barnhart, UK Director of Athletics. “Our experience in bringing 50,000 people to Nashville for the 2006 game brings back great memories and this year is a new opportunity for our fans to enjoy Kentucky football in the post-season.
“The city and staff treated us in first-class fashion and we’re privileged to be their guests. As an institution, we’ll do all we can to put on a good show. I also congratulate Coach Rich Brooks, our seniors, and all of the Wildcats as we try for our first back-to-back bowl wins in over half a century.”
This marks only the fourth time in Kentucky history that the Wildcats have played in bowl games in consecutive years, joining the 1949-50-51 seasons (Orange/Sugar/Cotton respectively), 1983-84 (Hall of Fame Bowl both years), and 1998-99 (Outback/Music City).
Last season, Kentucky played in the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl and defeated Clemson, 28-20, before the largest crowd (68,024) in bowl history. Kentucky has back-to-back bowl wins only one time in school history, winning the Sugar Bowl on Jan. 1, 1951, and the Cotton Bowl on Jan. 1, 1952.
Kentucky has a 7-5 record this season, UK’s first back-to-back seven-win campaigns in 30 years. The Wildcats also notched a pair of wins over top-10 teams, then-No. 9 Louisville and then-No. 1 LSU, for the first time in 30 years. The victory over the Tigers was UK’s first triumph over a top-ranked opponent in 43 years.
This will be the 12th post-season appearance in school history, with the Wildcats carrying a 6-5 record in bowl games. Kentucky is 1-1 in the Music City Bowl, losing to Syracuse in ’99 and defeating Clemson last year.
UK leads the series vs. Florida State, 3-1-1, as the teams played in 1960-61-62-64-65. The Wildcats and Seminoles have never tangled in a bowl clash. UK has a 2-1 slate in bowl games vs. Atlantic Coast Conference teams, winning the 1976 Peach Bowl, 21-0, over North Carolina; losing the 1993 Peach Bowl to Clemson, 14-13; and winning last year vs. Clemson.
Like Kentucky, Florida State also has a 7-5 record this season, including a 4-4 mark in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Another similarity with the Wildcats is that FSU has a win over a highly ranked opponent this season, as the Seminoles defeated then-No. 2 and undefeated Boston College, 27-17, on the road on Oct. 25.
The game will feature a matchup of long-time friends in coaches Rich Brooks and Bobby Bowden, who have known each other since the 1980s. In fact, Bowden was quoted at the time Brooks was hired at Kentucky prior to the 2003 season.
“I’ve known Rich Brooks for the past 20 years and he’s a mighty easy person to like,” Bowden said. “He did a fantastic job at Oregon. He has a great camaraderie with his players. His coaching style will be an excellent fit at Kentucky. I think there will be a lot of happy Kentucky fans.”
Bowden’s words proved prophetic. Inheriting a program burdened heavily by probation, Brooks steadily rebuilt the team. The patient coaching and tireless recruiting began paying off as UK went 8-5, including the bowl triumph, representing Kentucky’s most wins and first post-season victory since 1984. Ironically, UK’s win in the Music City Bowl was against a Clemson team coached by Bowden’s son, Tommy.
Kentucky fans already have indicated their eagerness to return to Nashville for this year’s event. A pre-sale of Music City Bowl tickets to UK season-ticket holders has generated approximately 27,000 requests.