Clemson (8-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Dec. 27, 8:30 p.m., (ESPN)
Clemson take by ACC blogger Heather Dinich: This is Clemson’s consolation prize for finishing runner-up to Georgia Tech in the ACC championship game. Because the Gator Bowl didn’t contractually have to select the loser of the title game this year, the Tigers dropped to the fifth bowl in the selection process and will face a team that finished 3-5 in the SEC East.
Needless to say, it’s not exactly the grand finale the Tigers were probably hoping for.
Still, they’ve got to find a way to win, and they’re going to have to find a way to stop the run better than they did against Georgia Tech.
Kentucky has one of the nation’s worst passing offenses, but has found some answers in Randall Cobb and Derrick Locke. Cobb, who plays wide receiver and quarterback, finished the regular season second in the SEC in touchdowns, third in all-purpose yards per game, and third in punt return average. Locke leads the team in rushing and is second in the SEC in all-purpose yardage.
The Wildcats will have to find a way to slow down Clemson running back C.J. Spiller, who almost single-handedly beat Georgia Tech on Saturday. They rank 100th in the nation in rushing defense, allowing 183.17 yards per game. Spiller racked up 233 on Saturday.
It should be a lopsided matchup, but then again, South Carolina finished with the same record as Kentucky and the Tigers came up short in that game.
Kentucky take by SEC blogger Chris Low:This is a rematch of the 2006 game in Nashville, which Kentucky won 28-20 for its first bowl victory in 13 years. That was the start of something for the Wildcats, who will be looking for their fourth straight bowl victory.
Rich Brooks did one of his finest coaching jobs this season and deserves consideration for Coach of the Year honors in the SEC. The Wildcats had key personnel losses to injury and suspension and ended up with true freshman Morgan Newton starting at quarterback at the end of the season. Nonetheless, they were an overtime loss to Tennessee away from winning eight games in the regular season for the first time since 1984.
Sophomore Randall Cobb did a little bit of everything for Kentucky. He threw it, ran it, caught it and returned it and was second in the SEC to Mark Ingram with 18 touchdowns. Running back Derrick Locke was a nice complement to Cobb. Locke was No. 2 and Cobb No. 3 in the SEC in all-purpose yards per game.
The Wildcats’ passing game was limited after Newton took over when starter Mike Hartline went down with a knee injury. But Brooks said there’s a chance Hartline could return in time for the bowl game.