VAUGHT: Music City Bowl still likes Cats

Even though earlier this season several Kentucky players openly proclaimed that the Wildcats wanted to move up the bowl chain and not return to the Music City Bowl, the best case scenario for the Cats now looks like a return trip to Nashville.

Even with a win over Tennessee, it's unlikely the Cats will merit an invitation to the Chick-fil-A Bowl unless Vanderbilt loses to both Tennessee and Wake Forest.

So UK athletics director Mitch Barnhart and coach Rich Brooks need to make sure they emphasize a third straight trip to Nashville would be a big deal for the Cats, and the fans. Both the Music City Bowl and Liberty Bowl would love to have the Cats. It's been the same scenario the last two years. However, the Cats could be even more attractive this year because so many bowls are worried about how teams will travel — and UK fans have shown they will come to Nashville.

With a number of Atlantic Coast Conference teams still in the hunt for a Music City Bowl berth, the bowl will want to make sure it has a SEC team that will bring a lot of fans. Kentucky has shown it will bring more than Mississippi, the other team that the Music City and Liberty bowls will be considering.

"While it is not the best scenario to have a team play three straight years in the same bowl, we would not pass on UK for that reason. A number of bowls this year are very concerned about the economy and whether fans will travel greater distances and how long they will stay," one Music City Bowl official said.

"For attendance purposes, fans that can drive to the game might be a real plus for them this year."

Yet the bowl official acknowledges taking a Kentucky team that would have lost three straight games and have a 6-6 record if it doesn't beat Tennessee on Nov. 29 would not be easy to do.

"Let's just say a win over Tennessee makes Kentucky a lot more attractive," the bowl official said.

"From an attendance standpoint, a Kentucky-Virginia Tech game could have a lot of appeal. But we still need another weekend of football to have some things clear up and the last weekend of the regular season will also have an impact when we have games like Kentucky-Tennessee, Ole Miss-Mississippi State, South Carolina-Clemson and Vanderbilt-Wake Forest. But UK is definitely in our mix."

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