The Big Ten and SEC will go at it in the 2017 Music City Bowl. Northwestern and Kentucky both had solid seasons and will be looking to cap it off with a win. Here is the 2017 Music City Bowl preview:
Kentucky Wildcats (7-5)
Kentucky got to bowl eligibility for the first time under Mark Stoops and beat three bowl eligible teams in the process. The Wildcats were able to beat Southern Miss, Missouri and South Carolina for solid wins. Stoops got the program going in the right direction and now has to sustain it.
The offense scores just 25.9 points per game and is built around the offensive line. Running back Benny Snell is one of the most overlooked players in the country, but produces a lot for Kentucky. He is the SEC’s second leading rusher and has 1,318 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Snell is a workhorse running back who has 256 carries on the season. Quarterback Stephen Johnson is the second leading rusher with 358 yards and three touchdowns.
Johnson leads the offense from the quarterback position with 2,048 passing yards, 10 touchdowns and four interceptions. He has been great at protecting the football, which is important with a workhorse running back like Snell. Garrett Johnson is the leading receiver with 500 receiving yards and two touchdowns. Tight end C.J. Conrad is a great receiver as well with 286 receiving yards and four touchdowns.
The defense has been an enigma allowing 28.6 points per game. They rank 61st against the run and 112th against the pass. Linebacker Josh Allen has created some draft buzz around his name. The junior has 10.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks on the season.
21 Northwestern Wildcats (9-3)
Northwestern started off the season with a 2-3 record, but haven’t lost since. They have beaten Iowa and Michigan State for some good wins and they have only lost to bowl eligible teams. A seven game win streak is nice, but getting to 10 wins would be better for the Northwestern program.
Offensively, the Wildcats score 29.7 points per game. They also have a quality running back in Justin Jackson, who ranks 12th on the all time rushing list. This season he has 1,154 rushing yards and nine rushing touchdowns. Freshman Jeremy Larkin provides relief with 391 rushing yards on the season.
Clayton Thorson has drawn the eye from NFL scouts and provides a pocket-passer who can run. He has 2,809 passing yards, 15 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. He completes over 60% of his passes, but does need to make better decisions with the football. Bennet Skowronek is the leading receiver with 619 yards and five touchdowns.
The Wildcats’ defense is what has propelled this team to success and allows 19.3 points per game. They rank 10th against the run and 98th against the pass. Freshman linebacker Paddy Fisher looks like he may be one of the all time greats and already has 108 total tackles on the season.
Northwestern’s defense will be the key to this game. They will key on stopping Snell and make Johnson beat them with his arm. While pass defense is a liability of the Northwestern defense, Johnson and his receivers haven’t proven to they can beat a team without a solid running game.
Northwestern Wildcats 29 Kentucky Wildcats 24
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