Kentucky to play Clemson in the Gator Bowl

On3 imageby:Nick Roush12/03/23

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Kentucky will cap off the 2023 season in the state of Florida. The Wildcats will play Clemson in the Gator Bowl, the game announced. The game will be played at EverBank Stadium in Jacksonville Friday, Dec. 29 at noon on ESPN.

This is the fourth time Kentucky and Clemson have faced off in the postseason. Clemson won two of those meetings, most recently in the 2009 Music City Bowl. Tickets to the game are available for sale here and on TicketMaster.

This will be the fifth time in eight years the Wildcats will play a postseason game in the Sunshine State. Many initially anticipated Kentucky would end up in the Duke’s Mayo Bowl in Charlotte. That all changed thanks to an unusual set of circumstances. The Big 12 had more bowl eligible teams than bowl games available, and the SEC actually had fewer 6-win teams than available bowl games. The trade sent West Virginia to Charlotte and Kentucky to Jacksonville.

Kentucky is back in the Gator Bowl for the third time since Mark Stoops first took the Cats to the postseason. In 2016 Stephen Johnson was stripped on the fourth play of the game, leading to a Georgia Tech touchdown. Kentucky never could dig out of the hole against Paul Johnson’s triple-option attack, ultimately falling 33-18 to the Yellow Jackets. Few were able to attend the Cats’ last trip to Jacksonville. Following the COVID-19 2020 season, the Kentucky defense won the day, picking off three passes and limiting the NC State offense to only 50 yards on the ground in a 23-21 victory.

Kentucky is playing in its eighth-straight bowl game, a school record. The Cats participated in 15 postseason games prior to the arrival of Mark Stoops. Kentucky finished the 2023 regular season with a 7-5 record after upsetting Louisville at L&N Federal Credit Union Stadium. The highest-ranked win of the Mark Stoops era, the Wildcats have now won five straight games in the Governor’s Cup.

The season-ending victory provided some salvation for an otherwise disappointing 2023 campaign. A loss in the penultimate week of the season at South Carolina dropped Kentucky to 3-5 in conference play, their second straight season with a losing record in SEC play.

Kentucky will be without its most valuable offensive player in the Gator Bowl. Ray Davis announced he will forego his final game in a UK uniform to prepare for the NFL Draft. The talented running back set new single-season UK records for touchdowns (20) and points scored (120). In addition to Davis’ absence, Kenneth Horsey shared he will also sit out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

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2024-03-02