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First Scouting Report: Kentucky to face a revenge-minded Iowa in Music City Bowl?

An early look ahead to Kentucky’s opponent in the Music City Bowl:

The opponent

Kentucky (7-5, 3-5 SEC) will face Iowa (7-5, 5-4 Big Ten) at Nissan Stadium in Nashville.

The Music City Bowl will kick off at noon (EST) on Dec. 31, 2022, and be telecast by ABC.

After starting the season 3-4, Iowa won four of its final five games, including a 24-3 road victory over eventual Big Ten West champion Purdue.

UK will be seeking to extend its nation’s best 20-game win streak vs. non-conference foes.

Kentucky’s last loss against a non-Southeastern Conference opponent came against Northwestern, 24-23, in the 2017 Music City Bowl.

Series history

Kentucky leads 1-0. The Wildcats defeated the Hawkeyes 20-17 on Jan. 1, 2022, in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando, Fla.

Wan’Dale Robinson caught 10 passes for 170 yards; Christopher Rodriguez ran for 107 yards and a touchdown and caught a TD pass; and DeAndre Square sealed UK’s victory with a late interception.

Bowl histories

Kentucky is 12-9 all-time in bowl games and will be making a school-record, seventh straight postseason appearance.

UK will also be seeking its fifth straight bowl victory, having beaten No. 12 Penn State 27-24 in the Citrus Bowl that followed the 2018 season; Virginia Tech 37-30 in 2019 Belk Bowl; No. 23 North Carolina State 23-21 in the Gator Bowl that followed the 2020 season; and No. 15 Iowa 20-17 in the Citrus Bowl that followed the 2021 season.

Kentucky Coach Mark Stoops is 4-2 in bowl games and has won four straight.

This will be UK’s sixth trip to the Music City Bowl. Kentucky is 2-3 in the Nashville bowl, with victories over Clemson (28-20) in 2006 and Florida State (35-28) in 2007 and losses to Syracuse (20-13) in 1999, Clemson (21-13) in 2009 and Northwestern (24-23) in 2017.

Iowa is 17-16-1 all-time in bowls and had won three straight postseason games before falling to UK last season in Orlando.

Hawkeyes Coach Kirk Ferentz is 9-9 in bowl games.

This will be Iowa’s first appearance in the Music City Bowl.

Kentucky will see Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz on the opposite sideline in the Wildcats’ bowl game for the second straight season. The Wildcats and Hawkeyes will meet in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31. UK beat Iowa 20-17 in last season’s Citrus Bowl.
Kentucky will see Iowa Coach Kirk Ferentz on the opposite sideline in the Wildcats’ bowl game for the second straight season. The Wildcats and Hawkeyes will meet in the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31. UK beat Iowa 20-17 in last season’s Citrus Bowl.

Know your foe

1. Iowa began the 2022 season with 14 starters back from the team Kentucky defeated last season in the Citrus Bowl. Included among the returnees are the two players that did the most damage vs. UK in last season’s meeting.

Tight end Sam LaPorta caught seven passes for 122 yards and a touchdown vs. Kentucky last season. This year, the 6-foot-4, 249 pound senior is Iowa’s leading receiver with 53 catches for 601 yards and a touchdown.

Middle linebacker Jack Campbell made 14 tackles vs. UK last season in Orlando. This year, the 6-5, 246-pound senior has registered a whopping 118 tackles with 3.5 tackles for loss, two interceptions, five quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.

Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) has made 118 tackles in 2022.
Iowa linebacker Jack Campbell (31) has made 118 tackles in 2022.

2. Statistically, Iowa fielded one of the worst offenses in the country in 2022. The Hawkeyes stand 122nd out of 131 in the FBS in rushing (97.2 yards a game); No. 123 in passing (158.2 yards a game); and No. 130 in total offense (255.4 yards a game).

Only New Mexico (228.1) averaged fewer yards a game in 2022 than Iowa.

Not surprisingly, given those numbers, a good deal of Iowa fan wrath has been directed at Hawkeyes offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz, the son of the head coach.

3. The Iowa defense is almost as good, statistically, as the Hawkeyes’ offense is bad. Iowa stands 13th in the FBS in rush defense (104.1 yards a game allowed); ninth against the pass (173.8 yards a game); and fourth in total defense (277.9 yards a game allowed).

Iowa’s ability to stop the run is of special interest because, assuming he opts to play, Kentucky star running back Christopher Rodriguez will enter the Music City Bowl with 3,644 career rushing yards. That means Rodriguez needs to run for 230 yards in Nashville to eclipse Benny Snell’s all-time UK rushing record (3,873 yards).

Kentucky football headed to the Music City Bowl in Nashville to face Iowa