Too many times we have been hearing that bowl games are just exhibitions and they mean nothing. One, if you’re complaining about too much football you need to find a new hobby. Two, the kids that will play have the best memories. Three, if the bowl game works in your favor it gives you so much momentum for signing day in February, spring training, and leading into fall camp.
Today we are focusing on the Music City Bowl giving you a preview and prediction. This year’s Music City Bowl is The Iowa Hawkeyes from the Big Ten and The Kentucky Wildcats from the SEC. The Wildcats are very familiar with this bowl game, as they have six appearances in Music City Bowl History. While this is the first time Iowa will be playing in the bowl game.
As we all know Iowa and Kentucky just met in bowl season last year in the Citrus Bowl. Kentucky defeated the Hawkeyes narrowly in Orlando 20-17.
Fun Fact: The Iowa Hawkeyes are 5-6 All Time against SEC Opponents in Bowl Games. The Kentucky Wildcats are 3-2 against Big Ten Opponents in Bowl Games. All time the two have only met each other on the gridiron once, as we said before Kentucky won that game.
Three Keys for Iowa to win the Music City Bowl
#1: Take Care of the Ball
While many would call the Iowa offense inept, there is a reason Iowa is a 2.5-point favorite. While Iowa has its struggles on offense the defense is good enough to keep them in the game and put them in a position to win it. Going into the Music City Bowl, Iowa has a +4 turnover margin. That margin is #37th in the nation.
Iowa QB Joe Labas will see his first start as the Iowa QB. Literally, his job will be to do nothing stupid, take care of the ball, and be as efficient as he can.
#2: Keep limiting the explosive plays
Iowa has been the best all year at making teams EARN their offensive production. Especially in the explosive plays category. When I talk about explosive plays, I am talking about plays that go for 20+ yards. Iowa has only given up 24 plays all year that have gone for 20+ yards.
On the flip side, Kentucky is one of the worst for explosive plays. Out of 131 FBS teams, Kentucky ranks #94 in explosive plays of 20+ yards. As we said earlier in the article, the Iowa defense alone should be good enough to put the team in a position to win. While Iowa’s offense could be considered inept, Kentucky is right behind them.
#3: Flip the Field
Iowa Punter Tory Taylor was named the best punter in college football by PFF. He has a 45.12 average and was an absolute weapon for the Hawkeyes this season. He is known for flipping the field and pinning opponents deep.
Three Keys for Kentucky to win the Music City Bowl
#1 Keep the Hawkeye Defense on the field
Kentucky is top ten in time of possession this season. They love keeping control of the ball, and they can take their time on drives. With the Iowa defense being the center point of their team, Kentucky has to wear them out. Even the best defenses crack if they are left on the field too long.
With a third-string QB getting the start for Iowa, they have to capitalize on forcing three and outs. While Kentucky’s offense has been inconsistent all season, they should get plenty of chances.
#2 Let Kaiya Sheron take shots
With Will Levis opting out of the bowl game, Freshman QB Kaiya Sheron will be getting the start. As we said Kentucky’s offense has been inconsistent a lot, but they have nothing to lose here. The Iowa offense has been so horrid, they can take some chance in the vertical passing game.
Sheron saw major action in the middle of the season against South Carolina throwing for 178 yards and two touchdowns. Let him air it out and let Wildcat fans get excited about the future. (Yes I know Devin Leary just transferred in)
#3 Force Turnovers
Piggybacking off point #1 above, the quickest way to get your offense back on the field is by forcing turnovers. The Kentucky defense has forced 17 turnovers this season and will need to get a few more if they want to win this game.
With Sheron having some experience against a ranked South Carolina team, and Iowa’s Joe Labas having zero this could be the difference in this game. Yet, I believe Kentucky has more impactful opt-outs though for this game. I am going to go with the Iowa Defense to win this game outright and cover the 2.5-point spread.
Score Prediction: Iowa 16 Kentucky 13
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