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The Pants Predicts: Iowa vs. Kentucky in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl

Can the Hawkeye avenge last year’s loss despite the depleted roster?

Syndication: HawkCentral
It’s Ferentz vs Stoops yet again.
Joseph Cress/Iowa City Press-Citizen / USA TODAY NETWORK

The Iowa Hawkeyes and Kentucky Wildcats met a season ago in the Citrus Bowl with their sights set on improvement in 2022. The year has come and gone and both teams are entering 2023 disappointed and once again set to square off on Saturday. However, this year’s matchup will feature a slew of new faces and diminished expectations.

Given the struggling offenses and myriad injuries, opt outs and transfers, it should come as no surprise that Vegas has this pegged as the lowest scoring bowl game of the 2022-2023 season with an over/under of just 31 total points. What is perhaps surprising, however, is the Hawkeyes come in favored by 2 points according to DraftKings Sportsbook.

Here at The Pants, we’re a bit less optimistic in the ability of these two teams to put up points, perhaps because we’ve watched Iowa smash the under basically all season, but somehow we’re still on Iowa to not only win, but to cover the 2 point spread. On average, our staff is expecting a Hawkeye victory with a final score of Iowa 18, Kentucky 12, which puts us on the under as well as Iowa with the points. Every single staffer has the Hawkeyes winning outright, though only one of us has this one being more than a 3-point victory for Iowa.

Here’s a look at our individual predictions.


My God Iowa is still playing football. Make it stop! Honestly, it feels like we’re all ready to be done with this season and move forward with 2023 - a season where we might actually have some hope once again.

But alas, Iowa is still playing football this weekend, even if half the names on offense for both teams are not names we’ve heard all season. That makes predictions a bit more difficult outside of the obvious: points will be at a premium. Based on what we’ve seen from some practice footage and what we’ve heard in interviews up to this point, it sounds like Iowa is likely to mix in some read-option and get Joe Labas on the move more than we saw all year from Spencer Petras. I don’t think that means a whole new offense or loads of points, but I do think that can help this struggling offensive line. I also suspect we see lots and lots of Kaleb Johnson.

On the other side of the ball, Kentucky has had struggles of their own and between a backup QB, backup RB and an interim OC, I think they struggle to score about as much as Iowa, only they have to face off with the Hawkeye defense. At the end of the day, I think that’s the difference. Jack Campbell and Cooper DeJean each get a pick and the defense saves the day.

Prediction: Iowa 16, Kentucky 13


After a month-long slumber Iowa football will return to ring in the new year at the Music City Bowl. I don’t know about you but I’m actually looking forward to see how Spencer Petras bounces back from...


Well, then we at least have an experienced backup so Alex Padilla can lead the offense...

Oh, damn it. Somebody go make sure Joe Labas and Carson may don’t do something stupid after a night out in Nashville. No offense to Sam LaPorta but I’d rather keep him at tight end than see how he fares as Iowa’s “break in case of emergency” quarterback. This is on top of receivers Arland Bruce IV and Keagan Johnson also transferring out.

The silver lining to so many departures from Iowa’s offense is that Kentucky has had some of its own, with starters such as QB Will Levis and RB Chris Rodriguez Jr. opting out to prepare for the NFL Draft. We may very well witness the lowest scoring bowl game this season.

That’s likely just how Iowa would end up winning this game anyway. While the defense also sustained some attrition due to transfers and the draft, the core remains. The script here is the same as it has been all year: let the defense do its thing and the offense needs to do just enough to get by and not shoot itself in the foot. Despite the missing pieces that should still be doable with what’s left.

Prediction: Iowa 16, Kentucky 14


It’s hard to make an informed prediction about this game given how much uncertainty is at play. Both teams will likely start quarterbacks who have never taken a collegiate snap, both will be without key players on both sides of the ball due to opt outs and transfers, and both have young offensive lines who may or may not have made progress during bowl prep. Iowa and Kentucky also both excel on defense and special teams and generally avoid beating themselves with penalties, so the smart money says this will be a gritty, low-scoring contest, particularly given the high likelihood of rain on Saturday morning.

However, Iowa does have an edge in a few key areas which could shift the balance in their favor. First, in a game between two inexperienced quarterbacks, the Hawkeyes have the best running back in Kaleb Johnson, which gives the Hawkeyes a better chance to move the ball if the passing game turns into a trainwreck for both teams. Secondly, Iowa’s defensive line should have a huge advantage against a Kentucky front five that has consistently struggled in pass protection. Former starting QB Will Levis spent much of the season running for his life thanks to his porous offensive line, and the Hawkeye is tailor-made to make life miserable for a young quarterback forced to make snap decisions against a disciplined and talented unit. Don’t expect the Joe Labas era to spark an offensive renaissance, but don’t be surprised either if the Hawkeyes make enough plays to pull this one out.

Prediction: Iowa 17, Kentucky 14


I have absolutely no idea what’s going to happen but I scheduled my holiday travel around this game so I could watch every goddamn minute. Let’s get weird.

Prediction: Iowa 9, Kentucky 7


I was shooting pool with some of my friends who were in town for Christmas Monday night. One of which is the commissioner of our fantasy EPL league (LoP) and has continually blasted Iowa’s anemic offense this year and has tied my squads output to that of Brian Ferentz. I’m ahead of the fool but that matters not. Anyways, I was talking with one of their girlfriends who went to Kentucky. (I torched their asses in pool by the way.) She’s a diehard Wildcat so I was excited to get the pulse of Big Blue nation as well as throw Uncle Joe continually under the bus. Maybe unsurprisingly, she seemed apathetic to it all. Fine, I totally understand, but I think there is substance to that interaction. I got the feeling that Kentucky as a whole really doesn’t care for this game. It’s a rematch from a game that they somehow stole last year against one of the dullest college football teams of 2022. On the flip side, I believe Iowa is coming into this game energized to change a narrative. That should carry weight.

I’m excited to see what this offense does now that there is nothing on the line. A large part of that infuriates me as I expect Iowa to take the chances we were all pleading for during the regular season. I expect the defense to dominate fully and send Jack Campbell out on a high note as well. Lastly, for all the pain and anxiety we as a fan base have been through over the last month, the guys who have remained committed to this team look loose and appear to be thoroughly enjoying one another’s company. Give me the Hawks in a landslide victory riding the coattails of their hot wing contest victory over Kentucky.

Prediction: Iowa 34, Kentucky 10

So that’s how we see things playing out on New Year’s Eve. How about you, Hawkeye fans? What’s your prediction for the rematch between Iowa and Kentucky in the Music City Bowl?