2017 Music City Bowl Betting Preview: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

2017 Music City Bowl Betting Preview: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Written by on December 27, 2017

Let’s be honest here. Kentucky is a basketball school first and foremost and Northwestern is, well, an excellent academic institution. Not a heck of a lot of football tradition on either side as the Wildcats from the SEC and Big 12 meet in the Music City Bowl on Friday. Let’s see who’s favored in the College Football odds for this matchup.

2017 Music City Bowl Betting Preview: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

When: Friday, 4:30 PM ET Where: Nissan Stadium, Nashville TV: ESPN Stream: WatchESPN Radio: 630 WLAP (Kentucky) / 720 AM WGN (Northwestern) Opening Music City Bowl Lines: Northwestern -7 (51)

Weather Forecast

  • Mostly Cloudy: 4°C/40°F
  • Humidity: 44%
  • Precipitation: 0%
  • Wind: 5 mph N
  • Cloud Cover: 70
  • Type of Stadium: N/A

Bowl History

The first Music City Bowl was played at Vanderbilt Stadium in 1998. The next year, it was moved to the new home stadium of the NFL’s Tennessee Titans, now known as Nissan Stadium. The Music City Bowl has a history of upsets. The biggest underdog win was when Kentucky (+10) defeated Clemson 28–20 in 2006. Other big upsets include Minnesota (+7) defeating Arkansas 29–14 in 2002 and Virginia (+6) defeating Minnesota 34–31 in 2005. The most lopsided game was the first one, with Virginia Tech beating Alabama 38-7. The seven points are the fewest in the game’s history. Starting in 2014, the bowl reached a partnership between the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Southeastern Conference, with the introduction of the Big Ten as a third conference partner. This is the record fifth appearance for Kentucky in the game and first for Northwestern. UK is 2-2. Big Ten teams are 2-3 in the bowl. Last year, Tennessee of the SEC beat Nebraska of the Big Ten 38-24.

Why Bet on Kentucky?

The bowl appearance is the second in a row for the Wildcats after they reached the TaxSlayer Bowl a season ago. It is Kentucky’s 17th bowl appearance all time and the Wildcats own a record of 8-8 in those games. UK is one of two teams the country to tie or improve its win total from the previous year in each of the last five seasons, which coincides with Mark Stoops’ tenure in Lexington. The Wildcats also went 4-4 in SEC, giving them a .500 record in conference play in back-to-back seasons for the first time since 1998-99. UK has had success away from home this season, claiming road victories over Southern Miss, South Carolina and Vanderbilt. The Wildcats are looking for something positive after a rough November. After a 6-2 start, the Wildcats lost three of their past four and were dominated by rival Louisville in the regular-season finale. When UK outrushed its opponent this year, it was 6-1. In three lopsided losses (by 38, 29 and 27), Kentucky was outrushed by 181 yards per game. Two of the rush defenses that stymied the Wildcats were in the Top 25 like Northwestern’s. UK is led on offense by sophomore running back Benny Snell Jr., who ended the regular season leading the SEC in rushing yards with 1,318. His 18 touchdowns in 2017 set school records for both total touchdowns and rushing touchdowns in a single season. Junior linebackers Denzil Ware and Josh Allen – both ranking in the top 10 in the SEC in sacks – and junior safety Mike Edwards – tied for second in the SEC in interceptions – headline UK’s defense.

Why Bet on Northwestern?

The 22nd-ranked Northwestern Wildcats finished the regular season 9-3 overall and 7-2 in the Big Ten, winning its last seven games to mark its longest winning streak since 1996. The Wildcats have won at least nine games for the third time under Coach Pat Fitzgerald, accomplishing the feat twice in the last three seasons. This marks just the third time in program history the ’Cats won seven Big Ten games. The Cats have the No. 10 rush defense in the country. On the flip side, Northwestern has career rush leader Justin Jackson, and in the last four games of the year rushed for 227 yards per game and 4.9 yards per rush. Kentucky is minus-75 yards per game, and Northwestern is plus-46 yards per game. Northwestern will have the rush edge and come into this as the hottest team in college football, with wins in its last seven both straight-up and against the spread. Is Northwestern a safe bet in the Music City Bowl? Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson, who recently announced he will return for his senior season, is No. 3 in the Big Ten in passing yards, hitting 60 percent of his throws for 2,809 yards and 15 touchdowns. He is now the winningest quarterback in Northwestern history (26 wins) and has tied the team record with 44 touchdown passes. Jackson has cemented himself as the most accomplished running back in Northwestern history. Jackson is the nation’s second-active leading rusher and is nearing the NCAA’s top-10 leaderboard for career rushing yards with 5,283. With 1,154 rushing yards this season, Jackson joined Wisconsin’s Ron Dayne as the only two players in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 yards in four straight seasons. He is just the sixth player in FBS history to reach the milestone. Linebacker Paddy Fisher has been all over the field for the Wildcats this season. He leads all FBS first-year players with 110 tackles (9.2/gm.) and 62 solo tackles (5.2/gm). Fisher leads the Big Ten and ranks seventh nationally with four forced fumbles. He’s the only Power 5 player in the country to post at least two games with 18-plus tackles.

Latest Music City Bowl Betting Trends

  • Kentucky is 1-7 ATS in the last 8 games
  • Kentucky is 2-4 SU in the last 6 games
  • The total went OVER in 4 of Kentucky’s last 5 games
  • Northwestern is 5-0 ATS in the last 5 games
  • Northwestern is 5-0 SU in the last 5 games

Expert Prediction & Music City Bowl Pick

Two teams going in opposite directions here – Northwestern will be the vastly better Wildcats.