Kentucky won’t be competing in a New Year’s Day bowl game, but will be playing a week later and two days before the national championship.
The Wildcats (6-6) accepted an invitation to play in the BBVA Compass Bowl against Big East member Pittsburgh at noon on Jan. 8 in Birmingham at Legion Field. The berth will be a school-record fifth straight appearance for the Wildcats, who have compiled a 3-1 mark in their previous four bowl contests. The Wildcats are one of 29 teams in the country that have played in a bowl game every year since 2006.
“As we continue to grow our football program at Kentucky, it is our privilege to be invited to the BBVA Compass Bowl,” Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart said in a statement released by the university. “We are excited to play in Birmingham, the home of the Southeastern Conference office and a historic stadium at Legion Field, and have the opportunity for our players, coaches, families and fans to enjoy a city that has a great football tradition and a place in our nation’s history.
“We look forward to this event and the challenge of playing an outstanding team from the University of Pittsburgh.”
In his inaugural season as head coach, Joker Phillips guided the school to a postseason appearance, another first in the history of the school. The appearance will be Kentucky’s 15th overall. Phillips played on the Kentucky team that made back-to-back appearances in the Hall of Fame Bowl at Legion Field from 1983-84. The Cats, 8-6 in bowl contests, lost to West Virginia (20-16), but defeated Wisconsin (20-19) the following season in their previous two bowl games at Legion Field.
The Panthers went 7-5 and concluded the regular season with a 28-10 win over Cincinnati, earning the school a tie with Connecticut for the conference title.
“It will be a huge challenge and an exciting time for our football program to play in the BBVA Compass Bowl,” Phillips said. “I’ve had a chance to watch Pitt numerous times. Their running attack is very strong and their quarterback (Tino Sunseri) has completed more than 65 percent of his passes.
“I know Coach (Dave) Wannstedt is a defensive-minded coach. They rank 11th in the nation (in total defense), so they will be great on defense.”