Music City gives Iowa chance for payback against Kentucky

Music City Bowl: Iowa (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5), Dec. 31, noon EST (ABC)

FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK COLLEGE LINE: Iowa by 2 1/2.

Series record: Kentucky leads 1-0.

WHAT’S AT STAKE

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is one bowl win away from tying the late Joe Paterno for most bowl wins by a Big Ten coach (10). Better yet, the Hawkeyes can get some payback for losing the Citrus Bowl to Kentucky 20-17 to wrap up last season. This is Iowa’s first trip to the Music City Bowl. The Kentucky Wildcats can add to their school record streak with a fifth straight bowl victory. The Wildcats also are looking for their eighth victory for the fourth time in five seasons. A victory would be the 16th season all-time that Kentucky has finished with at least eight wins.

KEY MATCHUP

Iowa’s offense vs. Kentucky’s defense. The Wildcats allow just 19.1 per game to rank 11th in the nation. That includes holding top-ranked Georgia to just 16 points last month. Overall, the Wildcats are allowing 320.2 yards game (17th in FBS) and 146.8 against the run (59th). Iowa was next to last in total offense (255.4 yards) and will be hard pressed to move the ball against Kentucky in any phase especially with a new quarterback who has yet to take a snap in a college game. Starter Spencer Petras is hurt, and Alex Padilla hit the transfer portal.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Iowa: All-American LB Jack Campbell. The first Hawkeye to win the Butkus Award led Iowa with 118 tackles. He’s a big anchor to a defense that held opponents to 277.9 yards and 14.4 points per game.

Kentucky: Senior DB Keidron Smith. The Ole Miss transfer helped shore up the secondary and ranked eighth with 43 tackles. He also tied for the team lead with two interceptions, returning one for a 65-yard touchdown at Florida. He has seven career picks. His sister, Kaylon, is a senior forward for Vanderbilt.

FACTS & FIGURES

This is Iowa’s 35th bowl game appearance and first time at the Music City Bowl. Iowa accepted a bid to play in this bowl in 2020 against Missouri before the bowl was canceled because of the pandemic. … Iowa is 6-6 all-time in bowl games against current Southeastern Conference teams. … Iowa is bowl eligible for the 21st time in 22 seasons under Ferentz. … Kentucky leads the nation winning 20 straight nonconference games. … Kentucky can post its 13th bowl victory all-time and third at the Music City Bowl. … A win would extend coach Mark Stoops’ program record to 67 career victories. … Iowa All-American DB Kaevon Merriweather opted out of this bowl to prepare for the NFL draft. So did Kentucky QB Will Levis and RB Chris Rodriguez.

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