Tracking which Iowa, Kentucky football players won’t compete in the Music City Bowl

Both Iowa and Kentucky’s starting quarterbacks will not play on Dec. 31, and the squads will also be missing multiple top contributors.


Ayrton Breckenridge

Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras looks at Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz during a football game between Iowa and Nebraska at Kinnick Stadium on Friday, Nov. 25, 2022. Petras left the game in the first quarter with a shoulder injury. The Hawkeyes lost to the Cornhuskers, 24-17.

Chloe Peterson, Sports Editor

The Music City Bowl will be the battle of the backup quarterbacks.

Both Iowa and Kentucky football’s offenses will be depleted at the Music City Bowl on Dec. 31, with multiple key players injured, entering the transfer portal, or opting out of the game to prepare for the NFL Draft.

Both starting quarterback Spencer Petras and backup Alex Padilla will not play for the Hawkeyes in the Music City Bowl. Petras injured his throwing arm against Nebraska on Nov. 25 and had season-ending surgery following his injury.

“The injury he had at the Nebraska ballgame was significant enough to require surgery, so he’s not going to be able to compete,” head coach Kirk Ferentz said on Dec. 4. “Nobody’s more disappointed than him, obviously, like any player that has an injury that requires surgery. It’s good that he’ll be with us, but all of us wish he wasn’t on the sidelines.”

Padilla, who played almost the entire game against Nebraska on Nov. 25, entered the transfer portal soon after the regular season ended. He is not eligible to play for the Hawkeyes in their bowl game. While players can return to their original team after entering the transfer portal, Ferentz said it isn’t something he’s likely to consider.

Redshirt freshman Joe Labas or true freshman Carson May will start for the Hawkeyes at Nissan Stadium, Ferentz said. Neither have thrown a collegiate pass. 

“We, as coaches, have to figure out what we have to do to give our team the best chance to win, knowing the players involved,” Ferentz said. “And we’ll know more about that in the next couple weeks. It really is a highly interesting situation, but we have a lot of strengths on our team.”

Kentucky quarterback Will Levis looks to pass the ball during the 2022 Vrbo Citrus Bowl between No. 15 Iowa and No. 22 Kentucky at Camping World Stadium in Orlando, Fla., on Saturday, Jan. 1, 2022. (Grace Smith)

Starting Kentucky quarterback Will Levis will also miss the Music City Bowl, he announced on Twitter on Dec. 7.

“After much thought, I have decided to forego my final college football game, look to that next step, and declare for the 2023 NFL Draft,” Levis wrote.

Levis threw for 2,406 yards, 19 touchdowns, and 10 interceptions this season. 

The Wildcats will likely start redshirt freshman Kaiya Sheron, who started one game this season when Levis was out with injury. Sheron went 15-of-27 for 178 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception in the Wildcats’ 24-14 loss to South Carolina on Oct. 8.

The Wildcats and Hawkeyes will also be missing some of their top ball carriers and pass-catchers on New Year’s Eve.

Hawkeye wide receivers Arland Bruce and Keagan Johnson both entered the transfer portal following the regular season. Johnson only played in two games this season because of injury, catching two passes for 11 yards. Bruce started for the Hawkeyes alongside senior Nico Ragaini, but he only caught 19 passes for 187 yards in 11 games. 

With Bruce and Johnson out, the Hawkeyes will only have three scholarship wide receivers for the Music City Bowl: Ragaini, sophomore Diante Vines, and redshirt freshman Brody Brecht.

Hawkeye running back Gavin Williams will also not play in the Music City Bowl as he entered the transfer portal. Williams was Iowa’s first-string tailback to begin the season, but he suffered an ankle injury and went through mononucleosis, causing him to miss multiple games. 

He eventually fell down to third on the depth chart behind true freshman Kaleb Johnson and sophomore Leshon Williams. Gavin Williams ended the regular season with just 43 carries for 158 yards.

Kentucky’s top two running backs will also not be in Nashville. Chris Rodriguez Jr., who almost hit 1,000 rushing yards with the Wildcats in 2022, opted out of the bowl game to prepare for the NFL Draft. Rodriguez finished 2022 with 904 rushing yards and six touchdowns.

Senior Kavosiey Smoke entered the transfer portal to play his last season of eligibility at a different program. Smoke was the Wildcats’ second-leading rusher behind Rodriguez, recording 277 yards on 59 carries.