The Liberty Bowl Liberty Bowl Memorial Stadium Memphis, TN
East Carolina (9-4) vs. Kentucky (6-6)
January 2, 2009 5 EST The Line: Kentucky +3
At first glance you could easily look at this game and just see a SEC vs. Conference USA game and would think the SEC team would have a decided edge, I am not so sure that's the case in this one. Kentucky is yet another six win team with only five wins against D-1 teams, this is becoming a trend and as I wrote emphatically in my Gator Bowl write up, one which I'm saddened to say is probably here to stay.
Skip Holtz did a remarkable job at East Carolina this year and started the season as America's darlings pulling off two gigantic upsets against ranked teams, Virginia Tech and West Virginia, both who have already gone on to win other bowl games. While the Pirates few weeks on top of the college football world seems like and eternity ago, this is still a very good football team.
I think where the public perception may be off here is that after East Carolina started the season 3-0, they lost their next three games. Because of the spotlight on the team at time, the losses may still be over emphasized. The reality of it is, ECU went on to win six of it's last seven games including their conference championship against Tulsa where they were double digit underdogs.
There were limited expectations for Rich Brook's Kentucky team who lost just a ton of players to graduation. The Cats surprised a lot of people by getting off to a hot start winning their first four games. As the season went on, injuries and depth issues caught up with UK and they lost six of their last eight games.
While I normally think that time off really helps teams with depth issues and banged up players but the few weeks wasn't enough to help Kentucky as their most significant injured players will not be returning for this game.
See Mitch's Liberty Bowl pick against the spread