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Music City Bowl Preview: Game info, TV, players to watch, notes and a prediction

Running back Benny Snell Jr. will lead UK against Northwestern in the Music City Bowl on Friday. (UK Athletics)

UNDATED (AP/WKRC): Here is a look at Friday's Music City Bowl:

NO. 20 NORTHWESTERN (9-3) vs. UK (7-5)

  • WHEN/WHERE: 4:30 p.m. in Nissan Stadium, Nashville, Tenn.
  • TV/RADIO: ESPN/WCKY-AM (1530).
  • OPENING LINE: Northwestern by 7 1/2
  • SERIES RECORD: Northwestern leads 1-0.

WHAT'S AT STAKE: Northwestern can win back-to-back bowl games in consecutive seasons for the first time in program history. The Wildcats can also notch a 27th win for their senior class and finish with 10 wins for the third time in six seasons. Kentucky can win an eighth game in a season for the first time since 2007. A win also would give the Wildcats a winning bowl record as a program.

KEY MATCHUP: Benny Snell Jr. vs. the Northwestern defense. The Kentucky sophomore ranked second in the Southeastern Conference with 1,318 yards rushing and led the SEC with 18 rushing touchdowns. Northwestern ranks 10th nationally allowing 111.3 yards rushing per game, and the Wildcats have smothered opponents allowing an average of 96 yards rushing over their last 10 games.

PLAYERS TO WATCH

  • Northwestern: RB Justin Jackson. The senior ran for 1,154 yards and nine touchdowns, and he holds school records for rushing yards, touchdowns and all-purpose yards.
  • Kentucky: QB Stephen Johnson. The senior has taken very good care of the ball with only four interceptions all season. Johnson has thrown for 2,048 yards and 10 touchdowns.

FACTS & FIGURES: Northwestern is playing its 14th bowl all-time but eighth in the last 10 seasons. ... Kentucky is playing in its second straight bowl and 17th bowl all-time. Kentucky is 8-8 in bowls. ... Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald has been a part of 12 of the program's bowl games as a player, assistant or head coach. ... Northwestern has won two of its last three bowl games, including a 31-24 upset of then-No. 23 Pittsburgh in the Pinstripe Bowl last year. ... Northwestern has won seven straight games. ... Northwestern has won nine games for the ninth time in program history and third under Fitzgerald. ... Northwestern won seven Big Ten games for third time in program history. ... Jackson is sixth in FBS history to top 1,000 yards rushing in four consecutive seasons. Jackson is nation's second-active leading rusher with 5,283 career yards. ... Clayton Thorson is the winningest quarterback in Northwestern history at 26-12. ... Northwestern is one of 11 FBS teams with five or more players with at least 25 catches. ... Northwestern LB Nate Hall led the Big Ten and ranked 13th nationally with 16 ½ tackles for loss. ... Kentucky is 1-1 against Big Ten in bowl games. ... Kentucky has lost two straight. ... Kentucky is the first team to play in th Music City Bowl five times. Kentucky lost its last trip to this bowl in 2009 to Clemson. ... A win would make Kentucky 5-2 in bowl games against ranked opponents. ... Kentucky is looking for its eighth win for first time since 2007 season when Wildcats went 8-5. ... Kentucky is 41-199-5 all-time against ranked opponents and 0-2 this season. ... Kentucky has been intercepted only five times this season, tied for single-season school record for fewest interceptions.

PREDICTION: Northwestern 31, UK 27. The Wildcats didn't play well down the stretch, losing four of thieir final six games with the lone wins coming over Tennessee (29-26) and Vanderbilt (44-21), neither of which earned a bowl bid and finished a combined 1-15 in the SEC, while three of the four losses were by 27 points or more. Northwestern is riding a seven-game winning streak that included wins over three bowl teams (Iowa, Michigan State and Purdue) that all won their bowl games.

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