Music City Bowl by the numbers: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Music City Bowl by the numbers: Kentucky vs. Northwestern

Considering the way Georgia and Louisville gashed Kentucky's defense for big play after big play with the run game, Northwestern running back Justin Jackson has to think he could have a huge game in Friday's Music City Bowl.

Northwestern enters the game with a 9-3 season, with losses to Duke, Wisconsin and Penn State. Since then, Northwestern has become a solid contender among the Big Ten West, finishing the 2017 season 7-2 in the conference and on a seven-game winning streak.

Kentucky (7-5) will meet the Big Ten's Wildcats, No. 21 Northwestern University (9-3). The game is set to get underway on Friday, December 29th at 4:30 p.m. EST. Kentucky hasn't been such a consistent fixture during bowl season of late, but it is in its second postseason in a row after missing out on it five seasons in a row. "They've worked really hard back on campus prior to getting down here in Nashville, and since we've been here, they've been really on point". Snell was named first-team All-SEC by the Associated Press and second-team by the coaches after a season in which he recorded 18 rushing TD's, and more than 1,000 yards. "They went to work and the response we have had over the past few months is a direct reflection of the way we have prepared". Northwestern fans should take a little solace in the fact that quarterback Clayton Thorson is a little better than his Kentucky counterpart, Stephen Johnson. Here's how productive Jackson has been throughout his career: this year's 1,154 yards are a career low, though he'll surely pass his freshman total of 1,187 yards in this one.

The man under center for Northwestern is quarterback Clayton Thorson The junior has thrown for 2,809 yards and 15 touchdowns. Altogether, the back half has relented to 263 yards a game through the air which is good for 113th in the nation. Defenses can't zero in on anyone.

"To see the way that group imposed their will over the past two weeks", he said after a 42-7 victory at Illinois Nov. 25, "for us to run for over 300 yards against a team that had every gap full, it means that we won a bunch of one-on-one battles". Otherwise, it ended possessions primarily with an opponent's punt, if not with a stop on downs or a turnover.

Snell will face one of his toughest tests of the season against the stingy Northwestern run defense. What makes Johnson more effective is his ability to keep defenses off balance with his legs. Receiver Garrett Johnson is his favorite target, tallying more than twice as many receptions as anyone else on the roster, and both will be playing their final collegiate games Friday.

If the game comes down to defending the pass, Kentucky has the best defender in that department in the form of Mike Edwards, who leads the team with four interceptions. Linebacker Josh Allen and defensive end Denzil Ware combined for 13 1/2 sacks, giving Kentucky avenues to get after the quarterback in passing situations. The traditionally basketball-dominated school had a very real shot at its first double-digit-win season since 1977. This will be the Wildcats fifth bowl appearance in Nashville where they have posted a 2-2 record. It is 2-2 in the game, beating Clemson and Florida State in 2006 and 2007 in front of near-capacity crowds as its fans made the short trip south in droves.

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