Music City Bowl Preview

Florida State was in position to return to national prominence, and Kentucky finally got a taste of the top 10. Neither team, however, was able to parlay its early success into a BCS bid.

Late-season meltdowns doomed any chance the Seminoles and Wildcats had at a BCS contest, instead relegating them to a matchup in the Music City Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Oddsmakers from Bodog have made Kentucky –1.5 point spread favorites (View College Football odds) for the Music City Bowl (Game Matchup).

Florida State is making its 26th straight bowl appearance under coach Bobby Bowden, but lost four of its last seven games to finish 7-5 and unranked for the second straight year. The Seminoles climbed as high as ninth on Sept. 10 before falling out of the poll for good the second week of October.

"I hope we're building for better times," said Bowden, who has guided Florida State to two national championships (1993 and '99). "We're not happy with our record."

While the storied Seminoles are trying to regain their past glory, the Wildcats (7-5) are making only the 12th bowl appearance in school history. They certainly had higher aspirations than this bowl, however, after being ranked as high as eighth the weeks of Sept. 30 and Oct. 14.

Kentucky won its first five games - beating then-No. 9 Louisville during that stretch - and defeated then-No. 1 LSU in triple-overtime on Oct. 13. The Wildcats, though, went on to drop four of their last five, making their last appearance in the poll the week of Nov. 11 at No. 22.

Kentucky had its sights set on the SEC title, but a bowl game against Florida State still holds some prestige for the improved program.

"It adds a lot (to the game) because when you think about Florida State, you think about national championships," Wildcats wide receiver Keenan Burton said. "You think about the Warrick Dunns, the Peter Warricks, so many great players. The only thing you can do is be excited. If you can't get excited for this game, you don't have a pulse."

Kentucky is making its second straight appearance in the Music City Bowl, beating Clemson - coached by Bobby's son Terry Bowden - 28-20 last year. The Wildcats haven't won bowl games in consecutive years since beating Oklahoma in the Sugar Bowl in 1951, followed by a victory over TCU in the Cotton Bowl the following season.

Andre Woodson led Kentucky in last year's Music City Bowl, throwing for three touchdowns and 299 yards with no interceptions to cap his breakout season. The senior - expected to be an early round pick in next April's NFL draft - has been outstanding this year, completing 63 percent of his passes for 3,351 yards and 36 TDs with 10 interceptions.

Woodson has led the Wildcats to their first back-to-back seven-win seasons in 30 years.

"I think we gained a lot of respect from a lot of teams just because the way we continued to fight - we never gave up in any of the games," Woodson said. "I think this year we just did a great job competing with a lot of the bigger-name teams, more so then we have in the past."

Woodson is now set to end his college career against a very suspect Seminoles secondary. Florida State ranked 73rd in pass defense among Football Bowl Subdivision teams, yielding 2,832 yards.

The Seminoles ended the regular season with a 45-12 loss to then-No. 12 Florida, with Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow throwing for 262 yards and three touchdowns for the Gators. The 33-point margin of defeat was the most for Florida State since a 53-14 loss to on Dec. 3, 1983.

"We simply have got to get better there," Bowden said of Florida State's pass coverage, and its chances against Kentucky. "If we don't, they'll score a million."

Blowing leads in the second half in consecutive losses to Wake Forest and Miami in October doomed the Seminoles' BCS hopes.

Bowden said he expects to make some personnel changes to the secondary during the four weeks Florida State has to prepare for Woodson and Kentucky. Sophomore cornerback Patrick Robinson has been the unit's lone bright spot, picking off six passes this season.

Florida State, with its lack of big-play threats, has also been inconsistent on offense. Bowden brought in a new offensive coaching staff this season, but got mediocre results for the second straight year.

Drew Weatherford has thrown for just 1,773 and eight touchdowns in 10 games, although he's only been picked off once. His top target is De'Cody Fagg, who leads the Seminoles with 49 catches for 707 yards and five TDs.

Bowden, major college football's winningest coach, will be back for at least another year as he tries to get the program back to prominence. He has agreed to return for a 33rd season with options to stay longer, but offensive coordinator Jimbo Fisher was named Bowden's successor by school president T.K. Wetherall.

Even Bowden hasn't been around long enough to have coached Florida State's last meeting with Kentucky, a 26-24 Wildcats win on Oct. 9, 1965. Kentucky leads the all-time series 3-1-1.

by: Staff Writers - Email Us

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