The Music City Bowl will kick off at 12:00 PM EST on December 31, 2022 in Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee. This year’s matchup: the Kentucky Wildcats vs. the Iowa Hawkeyes. If this sounds familiar that’s because it is; these same teams played each other in last year’s Citrus Bowl which saw Kentucky claw their way to a 20-17 win over the Hawkeyes. So in 2022, the 25th anniversary of the Music City Bowl, the Hawkeyes will work to avenge last year’s loss and even the series to 1-1.
I Think I’ve Seen This Film Before…
The 2022 Music City Bowl might be the oddest bowl game of the year.
Kentucky and Iowa are both 7-5 for the regular season. Neither are ranked in the AP Top 25. And, they’ve been here before–literally a year ago, although at the time they were competing for a win in the Citrus Bowl.
Commonalities specific to 2022 are that both teams are playing without a significant portion of their rosters, including in the QB position. Injury, transfer portal, opt-out, you name it; both teams are suffering from it and will have to adapt to it on Saturday afternoon.
As the final 20-17 score might imply, last year’s game was actually a pretty good one. This year’s matchup is likely to see much of the same grit and fight from both teams on both sides of the ball. Coaches Mark Stoops (Kentucky) and Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) are talented coaches with quality programs, and they’re facing similar shakeups regarding the caliber of players unavailable on Saturday.
Who’s Out, Who’s In: Iowa
If you’re makin’ a list, the amount of players not taking the field for the Hawkeyes in the Music City Bowl is certainly worth checkin’ twice.
Hitting the transfer portal are:
QB Alex Padilla (QB2)
RB Gavin Williams
WR Arland Bruce IV
WR Keagan Johnson
OL Josh Volk
LB Jestin Jacobs
CB Terry Roberts
S Reggie Bracy
Out for injury are:
QB Spencer Petras (QB1)
TE Sam LaPorta
CB Cooper Dejean
And, opting out of the Music City Bowl is:
S, Kaevon Merriweather
With Petras out with a shoulder injury and Padilla in the portal, Iowa will turn to QB3 Joey Labas. While Labas is potentially a capable quarterback, he has yet to throw a pass for the Hawkeyes so this is obviously a worst case scenario for the final game of the year.
Coach Ferentz has said that LaPorta and Dejean are actually expected to return to play on Saturday, which would be great news for the Hawkeyes as both were first-team All-Big Ten players in 2022, and LaPorta was a John Mackey Award finalist. And, at least three NFL prospects have confirmed they will play in the Music City Bowl: LB Jack Campbell, LB Seth Benson, and CB Riley Moss.
Who’s Out, Who’s In: Kentucky
Kentucky’s list of no-shows is not quite as long as Iowa’s, but that doesn’t equate to an easy game or to a second consecutive defeat over the Hawkeyes.
Hitting the transfer portal are:
RB Kavosiey Smoke
WR Chris Lewis (notably also out for injury)
WR Chauncey Magwood
WR DeMarcus Harris
TE Keaton Upshaw
OG John Young
OT Kiyaunta Goodwin
Out for injury are:
RB Ramon Jefferson
WR Tayvion Robinson
And, opting out of the Music City Bowl are:
QB Will Levis
RB Chris Rodriguez
CB Carrington Valentine
Kentucky has backup options in Kaiya Sheron and Destin Wade at QB, though they will miss Levis regardless of who replaces him in this game. Sheron went 15-of-27 for 178 yards against South Carolina, and Wade has never started. So far, the coaching staff is keeping mum on who will start at QB on Saturday but both backups could see playing time during the Music City Bowl this year.
Another major offensive loss for the Wildcats is RB Chris Rodriguez who is arguably Kentucky’s best offensive player, with 904 rushing yards and six touchdowns in his last eight games. The absences of Smoke and Jefferson at RB leaves that job mostly up to Jutahn McClain; high hopes he doesn’t get hurt and can sustain a lot of touches this game.
Kentucky will also be without its OC Rich Scangarello and RB coach/co-special teams coordinator John Settle as both were fired after the regular season. Play calling for the Music City Bowl will come down to associate HC/TE coach, Vince Marrow. Marrow has proclaimed, “We will score points.” We will see.
Who’ll Be Singing the Blues?
Again, this is one of the oddest bowl games of the year. And it’ll probably be a decent game, at least. But who will take home this year’s trophy?
Both teams are facing offensive struggles. Iowa is starting a QB with no experience. Kentucky is without its star QB/top NFL prospect, and its best RB.
In the regular season, Iowa had one of the worst offenses in college football. Kentucky’s was not much better. But, the superior defense does belong to Iowa and most of those guys will be suiting up for the Music City Bowl on Saturday. Expect a low scoring game with a Hawkeye victory. After all, defense wins games, right?
Kentucky’s mood may be as blue as their uniforms at the end of the day, but it’ll at least be a fight worth tuning into.
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