2022 Music City Bowl Preview: Iowa vs Kentucky

Iowa Kentucky

A Rare Bowl Rematch

In doing projections for Last Word On College Football one thing is always mentioned. Bowls don’t want the same two teams playing in consecutive years unless it’s the playoff. Through an odd turn of events, that’s exactly what we have in Nashville this year. Let’s look at Iowa and Kentucky and give you a prediction with our 2022 Music City Bowl Preview. First up the Wildcats.

An Uneven Season

Mark Stoops’ Wildcats come into Saturday’s game with a 7-5 record and  3-5 in the SEC. They started off  4-0 and rose as high as seventh in the polls. However, due to injuries and some shaky offensive line and special teams play the Cats limped home 2-5 before a nice season-ending win over Louisville.

The offense was led by quarterback Will Levis, who threw for 2,406 yards and 19 touchdowns. However, he did throw 10 interceptions. He suffered a foot injury in the loss at Ole Miss and then a shoulder injury and was not the same the rest of the year.

Chris Rodriguez led the rushing attack with 904 yards and six touchdowns. This despite missing the first four games due to suspension. The Cats have a dynamic 1-2 punch at receiver with Barion Brown and Dane Key. Unfortunately for the Big Blue Nation, they won’t have all the pieces available against Iowa.

Missing Some Stars

Right after the season ended both Levis and Rodriguez announced they won’t play in the Music City Bowl. As a projected first-round draft pick Levis wants to get an early start on the NFL Draft process and also time to heal. The same with Rodriguez, who’s a projected late-round pick.

On the defensive side of the ball cornerback, Carrington Valentine declared for the draft and won’t play while super senior linebacker DeAndre Square is also missing from the depth chart.

In addition, Kentucky has a new play caller for the game. Offensive coordinator Rich Scangarello was let go after the season after one subpar year. Associate head coach Vince Marrow will call the plays for Kentucky. This is a similar scenario from two years ago where Marrow handled the duties in the Gator Bowl when Eddie Gran was let go. That one turned out pretty well.

With Levis, UK turns to a combination of Kaiya Sheron and Destin Wade. The Somerset native started the South Carolina loss by hitting 17 of 29 passes for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Wade, a prized freshman from Nashville, hasn’t played in 2022. Playing at Summit high school he was named Class 6A Mr. Football. He rushed for 2,308 yards and 30 touchdowns and threw for 1,436 yards and 18 touchdowns. Former Iowa quarterback Deuce Hogan is also a possibility. As far as running backs go JuThan McClain and La’Vell Wright will shoulder the load.

As we continue our 2022 Music City Bowl Preview let’s look at Iowa.

Scouting The Hawkeyes

Under coach Kirk Ferentz Iowa comes into Nashville also sporting a 7-5 record. They finished 5-4 in the Big 10’s West Division. The Hawkeyes closed strong winning four of their last five.

Quarterback Spencer Petras led the Iowa attack throwing for 1,725 yards. Although, he won’t play on Saturday due to a shoulder injury. Backup Alex Padilla entered the transfer portal. That leaves Joey Labas as the expected starter with Carson May as another option.

Kaleb Johnson leads the rushing attack with 762 yards and four touchdowns. Tight end Sam Laporta and his 53 receptions make him the top receiver. He underwent surgery four weeks ago for a torn meniscus. Actually, he plans on playing on Saturday.

Of course, you can’t talk about Iowa without discussing their defense. The Hawkeyes ranked fourth in the country giving up only 277 yards a game. They are led by All-American linebacker Jack Campbell, who had 115 tackles and two interceptions. Throw in a strong defensive line and it’s a tough test for a Kentucky offensive line that’s struggled in 2022. One player who won’t play is second-team All-American Kaevon Merriweather, who opted out of the game.

Now that we’ve introduced you to both teams let’s give you some history.

Bowl And Series History

Kentucky and Iowa have only met once, and it was a doozy. Last year’s Citrus Bowl was epic with Rodriguez punching it in late after a huge play from Levis to Wan’Dale Robinson. Square then picked off a Petras pass giving the Cats a 20-17 win.

This is Iowa’s 35th bowl appearance all-time and they sport a 17-16-1 record. They’ve won four of their last five and it’s their first trip to the Music City Bowl.

On the other side of the ball, this is Kentucky’s 22nd bowl game in history and they have a 12-9 record. They’ve now gone to seven straight bowls and have won four in a row under Stoops, both school records. This is UK’s sixth appearance in the Music City Bowl, far and away the most by any team. They are 2-3 all-time in Nashville.

Now that we’ve previewed both teams and given you some history, it’s prediction time with our 2022 Music City Bowl Preview.

Who Wins On Saturday?

As we mentioned in the beginning this is a rematch from last year and neither side seems very excited about it. The annual Kentucky-Louisville basketball game is happening at the same time (Noon) on Saturday. Throw in the two squads whose offensives ranked 105th and 122nd respectively WITH their starting quarterbacks this one looks like a low-scoring affair. In fact, the over/under is 31 which might be the lowest ever for a bowl game.

Our final bowl projections had Kentucky facing Minnesota in Nashville and Iowa playing NC State in the Mayo Bowl. The Cats and Golden Gophers have never played while the Hawkeyes and Wolfpack haven’t met in 30 years. Meanwhile, this is the game bowl organizers wanted.

Many “experts” have the Music City Bowl at the top of their watch list, for all the wrong reasons. Kentucky always plays close bowl games and this should be no exception. Look for Wade to be the “X” factor as the Cats open and close 2022 with wins over Iowa.

Kentucky 14-13

Thanks for checking out our 2022 Music City Bowl Preview here at Last Word On College Football. We’ll be back after the game with a recap.

 

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