Kentucky excited to face Clemson in return to Gator Bowl

Published 3:40 pm Tuesday, December 5, 2023

Kentucky hasn’t played Clemson in more than a decade.

The Wildcats (7-5) will take on the Tigers at noon on Dec. 29th in the Taxslayer Gator Bowl. It will be Kentucky’s third postseason appearance in Jacksonville and eighth consecutive postseason appearance. Kentucky defeated North Carolina State 23-21 in the Gator Bowl in 2020.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said the Wildcats were “excited to accept the invitation” to compete in the bowl, which has been held every season since 1946.

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“We are excited to spend time in Jacksonville,” Stoops said. “We look forward to a great week and our team can’t wait to play one more time this season.”

Kentucky athletics director Mitch Barnhart agreed.

“We are thrilled to go to Jacksonville, where we have had great bowl experiences and have an excellent relationship with (bowl director) Greg McGarity and the staff. From a football perspective, we’re proud to be going to the postseason for an eighth straight year and have the opportunity to compete against an outstanding opponent in Clemson.”   

Since defeating the Wildcats 21-14 in the Music City Bowl in 2009, the Tigers (8-4) won two national titles in 2016 and 2018 and have been one of the premier teams in the nation. Clemson broke even at 4-4 to open the season, but won its last four games.

Kentucky defeated Clemson 28-20 in the 2006 Music City Bowl, but lost to the Tigers two years later in Nashville. Clemson edged the Wildcats 14-13 in the 1993 Peach Bowl.

Clemson coach Dabo Swinney’s first bowl game was in the 1993 Gator Bowl as an assistant coach at Alabama and his first bowl game with the Tigers was in the same bowl in 2008.

“This selection feels very full circle,” Swinney said. “This is a great bowl with a great history and rich tradition in an area I’m super familiar with. It’s an area I’ve recruited, and I’ve got a lot of love for Duval County, especially with the Jags having three of our guys there.”

Swinney also is looking forward to his second matchup against Kentucky.

“Coach Stoops is one of the best coaches in the business. The job he’s done at Kentucky has been phenomenal to watch, and I know it will be an incredibly competitive matchup,” he said.