The 11th annual Music City Bowl will feature the Kentucky Wildcats of the SEC taking on the Clemson Tigers of the ACC from Nashville, Tennessee.
Kentucky finished the regular season with a 7-5 record, and all five losses came against SEC opponents. The Wildcats opened the season with a 2-3 mark, but five of their last seven outings resulted in victory but lost the finale against Tennessee. Despite that disappointing ending, Rich Brooks did a tremendous job keeping the Wildcats on track despite numerous injuries. The team won at least seven games for the fourth consecutive season, the first time that has been done at Kentucky in nearly a century, since 1909-12. Also, the club set the school record for consecutive non-conference wins with 18, the nation’s second-longest active streak.
Kentucky figures to have quarterback Mike Hartline available for this game who has been sidelined since October 10th when he injured his knee against South Carolina. In the six games that he has played this season, Hartline has completed 59.4 percent of his passes for 802 yards and 6 touchdowns with 7 interceptions. Morgan Newton has played in Hartline’s absence, and he has connected on 55.4 percent of his attempts for 608 yards with 5 touchdowns and 2 interceptions. But it doesn’t matter who the quarterback is because Randall Cobb is the man. Cobb is an all-around player that has 37 catches for 427 yards and 4 touchdowns and rushed for 537 yards and 10 touchdowns. Derrick Locke leads the team in rushing though with 843 yards and 6 touchdowns. Kentucky is generating 27 ppg and 336.1 total ypg.
Defensively the Wildcats are limiting opponents to 22 ppg on 362.9 total ypg. The Wildcats have allowed 16 rushing scores and 16 passing touchdowns and will be without top linebacker Sam Maxwell cause of shoulder surgery.
Dabo Swinney’s Tigers won the ACC’s Atlantic Division with a 6-2 record and are 8-5 overall. Three of the five losses have come by five or fewer points to a team ranked in the current top-10, proof that the club has been competitive all season.
Clemson quarterback Kyle Parker has guided the Tigers to eight wins this year as the starter, tied for the most among freshman signal callers nationally. He has set freshman records at the school for touchdown passes, passing yards and completions. His favorite target is Second Team All-ACC wideout Jacoby Ford, who has 53 catches, while First Team All-ACC tight end Michael Palmer has 41 grabs, a Clemson record for a tight end.
Still all of those players are complimentary to ALL-SGE-NCAA Football Team member C.J. Spiller, who very well may be the best all-around offensive player in the nation. Spiller, the 2009 ACC Player of the Year, enters bowl season with 7,416 all-purpose yards in his career, third best in NCAA history. He needs 349 yards to become the all-time NCAA leader. He has 50 touchdowns in his career, second only to the 56 accumulated by Florida quarterback Tim Tebow. A threat as a runner, receiver and kick returner.
While Clemson is scoring 31 ppg and gaining 366.5 total ypg, the club is limiting opponents to 21 ppg and 317.2 total ypg. The Tigers are led by Brandon Maye, who has posted 103 total tackles, seven of which have been tackles for loss. Ricky Sapp has 15 tackles for loss to his credit, including five sacks, and Clemson has posted an impressive total of 21 interceptions, helping to overshadow the 19 touchdown passes that the club has allowed. The play against the run has been strong, as foes are averaging just 3.5 yards per carry.
The Wildcats hold an 8-4 series lead over the Tigers, which includes a 28-20 victory in the most recent meeting back in 2006.
PICK: Clemson University Tigers
The Tennessee Volunteers will attempt to post their 25th consecutive victory over the Kentucky Wildcats as the SEC foes meet this weekend in Lexington.
Tennessee has never played a night game in Lexington, and it will be interesting to see how the club reacts to the enemy crowd and crisp weather. The Vols have won three of their last four games to move to 6-5 overall, and the most recent outing resulted in a 31-16 triumph over Vanderbilt last weekend. Lane Kiffin’s Vols have been competitive even in defeat this season, as four of the five losses have come by 10 or fewer points.
As for Kentucky, it has improved to 7-4 overall and 3-4 in SEC play with three consecutive victories. The Wildcats showed a great deal of heart and toughness last weekend by knocking off Georgia in Athens. Rich Brooks remains rather anonymous among SEC coaches, but he continues to field a quality product at Kentucky.
Tennessee is a solid offensive team that is averaging 30.6 ppg and 391.0 total ypg. The Vols are led by quarterback Jonathan Crompton. He has completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 2,345 yards and 25 touchdowns with only 11 interceptions. Montario Hardesty paces the ground attack with 1,127 yards and nine touchdowns. In the victory over Vanderbilt last weekend, Hardesty pounded out a career-high 171 yards and a touchdown on 32 attempts, while Crompton threw for 221 yards and two scores.
With the exception of a few rough outings, Tennessee has played tremendous defense this season, especially considering the difficult schedule Kiffin’s group has faced. The Vols are yielding 20 ppg while holding opponents to 313.2 total ypg. Tennessee has been tremendous against the pass, limiting opposing quarterback to 9 yards per completion with a collective total of five passing scores in 11 games. There are a couple of tremendous performers on the defensive side of the ball, including safety Eric Berry, who is widely regarded as one of the best players in the nation at his position. Berry has record 75 tackles, including 5 tackle for losses, to go along with 2 interceptions and 3 fumble recoveries. Hard-hitting linebacker Rico McCoy has 99 tackles to his credit, and he has forced 4 fumbles.
Kentucky is scoring 27 ppg this season to go along with 342.9 total ypg. There are two dynamic play makers in the fold for the Wildcats in Derrick Locke, a tailback, and Randall Cobb, a converted quarterback who does a little bit of everything. Locke has rushed for 821 yards and 5 touchdowns while making 22 catches for 221 yards and two scores. As for Cobb, he has run for 436 yards and 9 touchdowns, and his 33 catches for 403 yards and four scores leads all receivers. In addition to his 80 receiving yards, Lock rushed for 80 yards as well. Cobb had a pair of rushing scores but was limited to only 59 combined rushing and receiving yards.
The Wildcats are not a dominant defensive team, but they have played fairly well in most games. Opponents are posting 22 ppg and 355.4 total ypg against Kentucky, which has room for improvement against both the run and the pass, as foes are gaining 4.6 yards per rushing attempt and 13.6 yards per completion. Micah Johnson continues to lead the Cats in tackles with 84, and Sam Maxwell is tops with five interceptions.
Twenty-four straight wins over Kentucky has enabled Tennessee to stretch its advantage to 72-23-9 in the all-time series between the teams.
PICK: University of Kentucky Wildcats
Kentucky (6-4) has won four of its last five games to move to 6-4 overall. A closer look reveals that three of those victories have come over Vanderbilt, Eastern Kentucky and UL-Monroe, three rather weak opponents. Last weekend’s 24-13 triumph over Vandy marked just the second SEC win for Kentucky in six tries.
Georgia is 6-4 overall, but the Bulldogs have a more impressive 4-3 conference record. They have won their last two outings, including a 31-24 decision over Auburn last weekend. Of the five home games that Georgia has played this season, four have resulted in victory.
Georgia owns a 49-11-2 series advantage over Kentucky, which includes victories in 11 of the last 12 meetings.
Rick Brooks Wildcats are scoring 26.8 ppg this season to go along with 351.2 total ypg, solid numbers for a team with some dynamic offensive weapons. Randall Cobb, a versatile performer who now lines up at receiver and tailback after beginning his collegiate career as a quarterback. Cobb has 32 catches for 384 yards and 4 touchdowns, and he has also rushed for 396 yards and 7 scores. Derrick Locke is the team’s top ground gainer, as he has rushed for 741 yards and 5 touchdowns.
Kentucky is a fairly solid defensive team that is allowing 21. ppg and 343.2 total ypg. The Wildcats have permitted 25 touchdowns to opposing offenses, 13 of which have been of the rushing variety. The fact that they are surrendering 4.6 yards per rushing attempt and 12.7 yards per pass completion suggests that there is some room for improvement in both areas. Still, it should be pointed out that Kentucky has held opposing quarterbacks below a 50 percent completion rating with more interceptions than touchdowns. Micah Johnson has registered 74 total tackles for the Wildcats, and DeQuin Evans has 10.5 tackles for losses to his credit.
Georgia is scoring 27 ppg this season, and the team is generating 344.0 total ypg. The Bulldogs have scored 30 offensive touchdowns, including 18 through the air. Joe Cox is responsible for all 18 of those scoring strikes, and he has completed 57.9 percent of his passes for 2,059 yards with 12 interceptions. A.J. Green is one of the best receivers in the nation, and he has made 47 catches this season for 751 yards and six touchdowns but has an injured shoulder and isn’t expected to play. Washaun Ealey has rushed for 379 yards and 3 touchdowns on 373 carries for the freshamn this season.
Opponents are scoring 25.9 ppg while gaining 334.1 total ypg against a Georgia defense that can best be described as mediocre. Mark Richt’s Bulldogs are tough against the run, yielding just 3.4 yards per carry. Unfortunately, they have allowed 19 passing scores with only seven interceptions and are surrendering 12.3 yards per pass completion. Rennie Curran continues to lead the Bulldogs with 94 total tackles, 41 more than his closest teammate. As for Justin Houston, he has 11.5 tackles for losses to his credit.
PICK: University of Kentucky Wildcats