How does Kentucky stand with bowl officials with five regular-season games remaining?
The Cats are 6-1 after last week’s win over Vanderbilt with road games left at Missouri, Tennessee and Louisville along with home games against Georgia and Middle Tennessee.
One bowl official — who can’t be identified because of bowl regulations — says Kentucky is a wanted team by big-time bowls.
“The Citrus Bowl guys (in Orlando) really want UK. I know the Outback Bowl (in Tampa) does, too, but Citrus gets first choice between those two,” the bowl official said. “If the Cats lose two more games, I still think that would make them a very likely pick for the Citrus.
“Should they somehow only lose one more I think the Chick-fil-A Bowl in Atlanta is the most likely. Should they beat Georgia and hold on to win the East I think Chick-fil-A is almost a lock.”
He also said two teams UK has already played — South Carolina and Texas A&M — are being talked about a lot. South Carolina is a team the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville (what was known as the TaxSlayer Bowl) wants if it finishes the season in impressive fashion even though Texas A&M’s recent play has vaulted the Aggies into consideration for that bowl as well.
“I just know, though, if Kentucky keeps doing what it has been doing and what the bowl officials expect, I just don’t see anyway UK is not in the Citrus Bowl,” the bowl official said.
After every Kentucky football game, running back Benny Snell heads to the stands to find his parents, April and Benny Sr. It’s a ritual the player says he would never thing of changing no matter whether UK wins or loses.
“We have been to every game from Pee Wee and middle school on up,” April Snell said. “We used to run the length of the field with him. In college, we can’t do that.
“But when the game ends, we want to get to him and let him know that we love you and are proud of you. It doesn’t matter whether it was a good game or bad game, win or lose. We give him the same love and support to let him know how proud we are. Sometimes he just needs a hug. Sometimes he can’t wait to let us know he did well. But we always want to see us and we want to see him.”
During the game Snell’s parents have different approaches. Benny Snell Sr. likes to walk as the game is going on. April Snell will sit and stand at her seat.
“We kind of leave each other alone,” April Snell said. “We will meet back and hand slap after a good play. They (UK) put the parents as far away (from the field) as they do on purpose so the players can’t look up to see us or so we won’t say anything to players during games. So my husband just walks and paces and I just stand.
“If you see me, I probably look terrified during a game. I am watching it as a parent, not a fan. I want to see him run the ball and get up quickly and not be hurt running off to the sideline. I am concerned for his health. I want him to play the whole season.”
She says her son’s success — he was named a mid-season All-American and is on pace to become UK’s all-time leading rusher — has made him a target for opponents in ways that fans don’t always see.
“This year there has been a lot of dirty plays from a lot of different teams. Twisted ankles, punches under the piles, slamming his head down. That’s my heart is always pounding until I see him get back up,” she said.
Snell ran for 169 yards and one score on 32 carries in last week’s win over Vanderbilt. He rushed 10 times for 74 yards in UK’s game-winning, 80-yard touchdown drive.
“Every night, these are the situations I dream of,” Snell said. “Either we got to score a touchdown or the game’s on the line, I want the ball in my hands. That’s Benny Snell football. If it’s got to be 20 carries, 30 carries-plus, he’s going to make it happen. That’s what I want. I want the ball in my hands.”
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