AutoZone Liberty Bowl: East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6)

Posted by ESPN.com's Chris Low

The Bear would be proud.

In fact, he was roaming the sideline in Lexington the last time Kentucky went to a bowl game for three consecutive years. Bryant took the Wildcats to the Orange Bowl, Sugar Bowl and Cotton Bowl from 1949-51.

Nearly 60 years later, the Wildcats (6-6) will make it three in a row again when they face Conference USA champion East Carolina (9-4) in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl on Jan. 2.

Kentucky had gone to the Music City Bowl each of the past two years and preferred to go somewhere different this year. The Liberty Bowl, celebrating its 50th anniversary, jumped at the chance to get the Wildcats, who feature one of the most exciting freshman quarterbacks in the country in Randall Cobb.

Defense was Kentucky's strong suit to start the season, but injuries began to take their toll. Star defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will be back for this game. The Wildcats lost four of their last five games, and the only win during that stretch was a 14-13 escape against Mississippi State.

The Pirates opened the season with back-to-back wins over nationally ranked foes Virginia Tech and West Virginia. They hit the skids during the middle portion of the schedule, but won enough close games to get into the Conference USA Championship Game and then upset heavily favored Tulsa. One of the big storylines could be the future of East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, who's being wooed by Syracuse.