Kentucky football takes on Northwestern in Music City Bowl


Kentucky quarterback Stephen Johnson runs the ball down the field during the senior day game against Louisville on Saturday, November 25, 2017 in Lexington, Ky. Louisville won the game 44-17.

Roman West

For the second season in a row, the Kentucky football team will end its season with a bowl game, as the Cats will travel to Nashville to take on the Northwestern Wildcats.

Kentucky finished the regular season with a 7-5 record for the second consecutive season, which was good enough to land them a bid to the Franklin American Mortgage Music City Bowl.

Northwestern finished the regular season with a 9-3 record and is currently riding a seven-game win streak. The two teams have only met one other time, a 7-0 victory for Northwestern in 1928.

This will be Kentucky’s fifth trip to the Music City Bowl, the most of any school. A win would give Kentucky an all-time winning record in both the Music City Bowl and across all bowl games. The Cats are currently 2-2 in the Music City Bowl and 8-8 overall.

Northwestern’s offense is headlined by senior running back Justin Jackson. Jackson is one of the nation’s top running backs, currently second in rushing yards among active FBS players with 5,283 career yards. Jackson is only one of six players in Big Ten history to rush for more than 5,000 career yards.

This season, Jackson amounted 1,154 yards and scored nine touchdowns. He also had 43 receptions for an additional 266 yards.

Northwestern’s defensive strength is its run-stopping ability. The team ranks ninth nationally in rush defense, allowing only 111.2 yards per game. The playmakers include safety Godwin Igwebuike, who has 318 career tackles and seven interceptions. Linebackers Paddy Fisher, only a redshirt freshman, and Nate Hall, totaled 8.0 and 16.5 tackles for loss, respectively. Joe Graziano, a defensive lineman, led his team in sacks with 8.0.

The game will be a farewell to some senior stars for UK, as Stephen Johnson will be playing his last game in the blue and white. After only being the quarterback for two seasons, Johnson managed to climb his way into the record books by ranking in the top 10 in school history for passing yardage and touchdowns.

Garrett “Juice” Johnson will also be playing his final game for Kentucky. After four seasons, he was able to accumulate 2,050 receiving yards, becoming only the fourth player in school history to surpass the 2,000 receiving yards mark.

Austin MacGinnis broke the school record for points during his time at UK, racking up 354 career points. MacGinnis was also able to kick several game-winners over his tenure at the school, including a 45-yarder to beat No. 11 Louisville last season.

ESPN’s Football Power Index gives Northwestern a 69.8 percent chance of beating Kentucky. Vegas also likes Northwestern, favoring those Wildcats by eight points as of late Monday night.

The game is set to kick off at 4:30 p.m. ET on Dec. 29 at Nissan Stadium. The game will be broadcast on ESPN.