Music City Bowl Preview: Florida State vs. Kentucky

Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl
Dec. 31, 1 p.m. PST
Florida State (7-5) vs. Kentucky (7-5)
Nashville, Tennessee
Payout: $1,600,000
Spread: Kentucky – 3.5

This game bares some similarities to the Champs Sports Bowl between Michigan State and Boston College. One of the top senior quarterbacks in the nation will face a defense depleted by suspensions.

Kentucky QB Andre Woodson should have a big day. Despite running the gauntlet that is the SEC schedule, Woodson threw for 3,351 yards, 36 TD’s and just 10 interceptions. Even with WR Keenan Burton doubtful for the game, he still has three players with over 50 receptions to throw to. WR’s Steve Johnson and Dicky Lyons as well as tight end Jacob Tamme have had excellent years. Running back Rafael Little is also a threat out of the backfield, with 34 catches on the year despite missing three games. Little’s versatility will have FSU linebackers on their toes especially with a few teammates out of the game.

The more important of the FSU suspensions are defensive linemen Budd Thacker and Neefy Moffett, linebacker Dekoda Watson and corner Patrick Robinson, all starters. Talented defensive players aren’t hard to find on Florida State’s roster but the losses of these starters could result in the loss of the game. Kentucky’s offense has enough firepower to outscore FSU even with those players in the lineup. Linebackers Geno Hayes and Derek Nicholson will be the two Seminoles with the opportunity to change the game. They have to neutralize the running game with only seven in the box, sometimes six, and key on Rafael Little. They can give their secondary a chance but it will all hinge on their ability to stop the pass.

Two starting offensive linemen were also suspended for the Seminoles, right guard Jacky Clause and left tackle Daron Rose. For an offense that hasn’t found it easy to move the ball despite a plethora of talent, that doesn’t help matters. Kentucky’s defense won’t scare anyone but without Rose at left tackle, defensive end Jeremy Jarmon will be in quarterback Drew Weatherford’s face all day. If Weatherford isn’t playing well there’s no viable option to replace him with. Backup Xavier Lee was one of the many suspended.

Florida State will have to resurrect its running game. If running back Antone Smith isn’t at full strength from his shoulder injury, WR Preston Parker will carry the load. Parker played admirably against Maryland, running for 143 yards and a touchdown but was shut down by Florida in the final game of the year. If either back can get into a rhythm there won’t be much on the Kentucky side of the ball to stop them. Linebacker Wesley Woodyard is one of the best in the SEC but someone else needs to step up to give their offense some breathing room. Parker playing in the backfield means someone else will have to make catches at WR. He leads the team with 54 catches. Weatherford, wide receivers De’Cody Fagg and Greg Carr will need to stretch the Kentucky defense or they won’t keep up.

This would have been an excellent football game if Florida State had its full complement of players. Unfortunately they may not be able to withstand the offensive onslaught Kentucky can bring to the table. I expect Andre Woodson to light up the FSU secondary. Though the Seminoles might put some points on the board, it won’t be enough. Andre Woodson finishes his career at Kentucky in fine form.

Prediction:
Kentucky 41 – Florida State 31

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