Your 2021 Kentucky Wildcats are looking to once again finish their season with a 10th win. This time, taking on the Iowa Hawkeyes. Iowa heads into the game at 10-3, with wins over Indiana, Iowa State and Penn State.
Iowa is led by head coach Kirk Ferentz and defensive coordinator Phil Parker. Iowa has a team-record 24 interceptions this season, and their defense led them to a 7-0 start and were once ranked as high as (2) in the AP Poll.
It is worth noting that Iowa is missing a big piece on the offensive end. Running back Tyler Goodson announced in early December that he will enter the NFL Draft and will not play in the bowl game. This is a rather large deal in favor of Kentucky, because Goodson has had over 1,100 rushing yards this season.
Kentucky will also be short-handed on offense. Wide receivers Josh Ali and Isiah Epps were recently involved in a car accident, and will not be available on New Years Day. Although unfortunate, Kentucky is looking to turn a negative into a positive by calling the ‘next man up.’
Expect to see a lot of Chauncey Magwood, along with highly praised freshman Chris Lewis. Kentucky’s star wide receiver Wan’Dale Robinson has not announced his decision on returning for the 2022 season, but will be playing in the Citrus Bowl. There are also rumors circulating that tight end turned wide receiver Izayah Cummings may get some snaps at his recruited position.
Kentucky is currently a -3.0 point favorite, and praise is considerably higher than the last time Kentucky kicked off in Orlando. The ‘Cats offense will be led by Will Levis, and will have Chris Rodriguez in its’ backfield.
Cats Coverage Staff Predictions
Jordan Mathus: I think this game will come down to sheer strength between the lines. Kentucky is the clear powerhouse that will bully the Hawkeyes on both sides of the ball, and will ultimately utilize their running game to put the ball in the endzone. What could potentially put the Cats in danger is Iowa’s ability to capitalize off of turnovers. Kentucky must protect the ball, because Iowa is a sound team that will make teams pay for careless turnovers. Iowa forces one turnover and Cats win 37-27.
Braden Nevius: A game that I already thought would be a defensive struggle got even less offensive with the loss of Tyler Goodson for the Hawkeyes as well as Josh Ali and Isaiah Epps for the Wildcats. Explosive plays will dictate who wins this game because they will be few and far between. Kentucky has the upper hand in players who can make those explosive plays with Will Levis and Wan’Dale Robinson. I’ll take Kentucky in a 23-17 victory to reach 10 wins for the 2nd time in 4 seasons!
Tres Terrell: 42-24 Kentucky wins. I look for Kentucky to come out in this one as the top dogs, being crowned their fourth straight bowl win. Mark Stoops’ players seem to get the message each year on how to lock in for a bowl game and they always show up. The last few bowl games haven’t been the least bit stressful, and more fun than anything because the team plays great and ends up dominating them by the second half. With all the factors in this matchup, I look for it to be within two scores all the way up until halftime, then in that second half Mark Stoops will put it in gear and the rest of the game will be nothing but the stadium rocking as a sea of blue chants “Go Big Blue,” and we start climbing the scoreboard into a show-boating performance. Citrus Bowl Champs once again.
Grant Peters: Kentucky 45 - Iowa 10
I’ll be one of the lucky ones to be down in Orlando this Saturday for the start of the New Year — just as I was 3 years ago to watch Stoops capture Kentucky’s first 10 win season in 31 years. I expect this weekend to be no different than then.
Last time Kentucky took the field, we saw our boys absolutely overpower a smaller, weaker Loserville team — especially down in the trenches. Kentucky plays 10 guys in their rotation on the offensive-line weighing 300+ pounds, and 6 on the defensive-line of the same amount. Iowa comes in just as outgunned as Loserville did on that front, with just ONE man on the OL rotation over 300lbs, and ZERO on the DL.
In Iowa’s three losses to Purdue, Wisconsin, & Michigan, the Hawkeyes gave up an average of over 150 rushing yards. Chris Rodriguez can get that himself. Not to mention an extra 60 from Smoke, 40 from Levis, and 20+ from Wan’Dale off a Coen jet-sweep.
Everyone may be worried about the disparities in turnover margin between the two teams and how significantly it favors Iowa — however, I fully expect Kentucky to take the same approach to this game that they did in the Loserville one. Run the ball down their throats, and kill them at the line of scrimmage on defense. You can expect to see A LOT of sacks and a few turnovers when the ball is in Iowa’s hands.
Football is won in the trenches, and Saturday our guys are going to slaughter them down there and show the real difference between SEC & B1G football.
Janson Hoskins: 34-13 Kentucky. I say Iowa will keep it within reach at halftime but Kentucky will pull away in the second half due to our time of possession and just because of the shear size advantage we have over Iowa. Levis will have a good game but I believe this game will be won because of two keys to game:
1. Our defense will absolutely terrorize Iowa’s offense. I don’t see Iowa being able to put more than 250 yards combined against the cats in this one.
2. Our running attack will be way too much for the Hawkeyes to handle (along with our offensive line creating holes) with C-Rod, Smoke and don’t be shocked if you see some playing time from McClain.
Kentucky celebrates another 10 win season and their 4th straight bowl victory.
Isaac Matthews: 31-10 Kentucky. The Cats defense will keep em steady at first and then the offensive firepower will start to show with Will Levis slinging the ball to all his receivers up and down the field. When the Hawkeyes dial in to play the pass then gaps will begin to open up for CRod and he’ll have a 150+ yard day to allow the cats to run away with another dub in their second home, Orlando.
Matt Sak: 27-14 Cats. The Cats are going to jump out to an early lead, lead by a great throwing performance by Will Levis and elite playmaking by Wan’Dale Robinson. Chris Rodriguez will see lots of space to run in the second half, created by our consistent passing game in the first half. This run game, along with a few key forced turnovers by our defense, will allow the Cats to maintain the pace of the game, as well as their lead, coming away with the W in Orlando.
Jordan Hughes: Kentucky will come out a little slow. Maybe an Iowa 7-3 lead after the first quarter.
With the Cats coming off of an amazing offensive game against the Cards I expect the Cats to continue this play once they get into the groove of the game, despite Iowa’s high rated defense.
Iowa also has key running back Tyler Goodson who has opted-out of the game to prepare for the NFL draft. I believe this will truly show weaknesses to Iowa’s offense throughout the game.
Prediction: Kentucky 31 Iowa 14
The Cats Coverage staff is very confident in the Wildcats bringing the Citrus back to Lexington, as I’m sure a party will ensue. This program has come a long, LONG way. With the recent success in recruiting and developing, we don’t see this train slowing down. Safe travels, BBN! We’ll see you in Orlando.