Jake Olson, Sports Reporter

Iowa will take on Kentucky for the second consecutive bowl game on Dec. 31. However, the Hawkeyes and Wildcats are in unfamiliar territory this time. 

Since Iowa’s loss to Nebraska on Nov. 25, eight Hawkeye players from the 2022 roster have entered the transfer portal. Players like backup quarterback Alex Padilla, wide receivers Arland Bruce and Keagan Johnson, and defensive backs Jestin Jacobs and Terry Roberts have put their names in. 

Now, Iowa has to strap up for a 7-5 SEC opponent in Kentucky — this time in Tennessee instead of Florida — all while trying to frantically scramble to fill position spots in for the players that are looking for new programs.

Kentucky also has some players opting out of the Music City Bowl, including NFL prospect Will Levis. The fifth-year senior quarterback decided to prepare for the 2023 NFL Draft over playing one final game with the Wildcats.

That being said, Iowa will also be in a difficult situation at quarterback. With starting quarterback Spencer Petras out with a shoulder injury and Padilla in the portal, the man under center will come between redshirt freshman Joe Labas or true freshman Carson May. 

I think this is a game in Iowa that leans on its defense. Iowa is ranked No. 4 in the country in total defense, according to NCAA statistics. For Iowa to have a chance at winning this game, the defense will have to hold the Wildcats to under 10 points. 

Even if Iowa had Petras under center, it would be difficult to score. Kentucky boasts the 18th-best total defense in the country — third-best in the SEC. 

Iowa’s offense is second-to-last in total offense and without its first and second-string quarterbacks — a bad recipe to move the ball effectively.  I expect Iowa to run the ball heavily to take the pressure off of Labas or May, but I can’t see Iowa maintaining drives with rushes alone. 

I see Iowa falling to Kentucky, 16-10. The Hawkeyes will score a defensive touchdown but end up being overwhelmed on the offensive end.