A showcase featuring the SEC vs. the Big Ten takes the New Year’s Day stage on Saturday when No. 22 Kentucky faces No. 15 Iowa in the Citrus Bowl. Both of these teams reached the top 10 in the AP Top 25 poll earlier in the season with the Hawkeyes peaking at No. 2, and their combined 19 wins is among the most for two Power Five teams in a non-New Year’s Six bowl game.
Iowa won the Big Ten West with a 7-2 record in conference play and enters the Citrus Bowl with a 10-3 record overall after falling to Michigan in the Big Ten Championship Game. It marks the second time in three seasons Iowa has reached double-digit wins, and the one season they didn’t was the pandemic-shortened season of 2020, when the Hawkeyes won their final six games to finish 6-2.
Kentucky finished in solo second place in the SEC East behind Georgia and 9-3 overall. The Wildcats started hot with a six-game winning streak that included victories against Florida and LSU before hitting a three-game midseason skid and then finishing strong with three more wins to close the season.
Kentucky vs. Iowa: Need to know
Iowa offense missing its star running back: Tyler Goodson has been the team-leader in rushing for three straight seasons and was a 1,000-yard rusher in 2021, prompting his decision to forego the bowl game and begin preparation for the 2022 NFL Draft. This decision came with the support of coach Kirk Ferentz and the program, but it also creates an issue of replacing those yards and what he meant to the Hawkeyes offense. Senior Ivory Kelly-Martin is expected to get the start at running back in Goodson’s absence with a couple of underclassmen moving up behind him on the depth chart with a chance to make a splash against a quality opponent.
Nonconference winning streak on the line: Kentucky and Iowa have the longest active winning streaks among nonconference opponents among FBS teams with 15 consecutive wins, and each streak includes three straight bowl wins. Both of those streaks are going to come to an end for one of these teams, while the winner will carry this impressive multi-season run into the 2022 nonconference schedule.
Mark Stoops facing his alma mater: The Kentucky coach is riding streaks of six straight bowl appearances and three straight bowl wins heading into this matchup with Iowa, the program he played for under legendary coach Hayden Fry. Stoops also served as a graduate assistant at Iowa for a couple of seasons in a stretch that included a Rose Bowl appearance and, Ferentz was on the staff when Stoops was recruited to the program. There’s a ton of familiarity in this matchup but no actual history. Not only has Stoops never faced Iowa as a head coach, but Kentucky and Iowa have never met in football prior to this year’s Citrus Bowl.
How to watch Citrus Bowl live
Game: Citrus Bowl
Date: Saturday, Jan. 1 | Time: 1 p.m. ET
Location: Camping World Stadium — Orlando, Florida.
TV: ABC | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
Citrus Bowl prediction, picks
Mark Stoops’ program just seems to be at a place where it’s a tough out in a bowl game. These two teams are built similarly and both want to win at the line of scrimmage, but I think the skill talent on Kentucky’s side is just a notch better, especially with the absence of Goodson. Prediction: Kentucky (-3)
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