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Georgia Tech, Kentucky heading to TaxSlayer Bowl

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Kentucky Wildcats will face the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in EverBank Field on New Year's Eve in the 2016 TaxSlayer Bowl.

“We are very excited to welcome Kentucky and Georgia Tech to Jacksonville for the 72nd Annual TaxSlayer Bowl," TaxSlayer Bowl chairman David Boree said Sunday afternoon. "It will be a great match-up and we are pleased to host these two top-notch teams and their players, coaches and fans in our city for a great day of football.”

The Wildcats (7-5) and Yellow Jackets (8-4) ended the regular season by going on the road and knocking off instate out-of-conference rivals. Kentucky beat Louisville while Georgia Tech took down Georgia.

This game marks the 20th all-time meeting between Kentucky, representing the SEC, and Georgia Tech, of the ACC, but the last time they met was in 1960, when the Jackets won 23-13. Georgia Tech leads the series, 11-7-1.

This will be Kentucky’s first appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl -- the only SEC team to have never played in the 71-year-old history of the Gator Bowl that took on the Taxslayer name four years ago. Mark Stoops has been head coach of the Wildcats since November 2012. 

“We’re extremely excited and proud for our team, our university and our fans, to be invited to the TaxSlayer Bowl,” Stoops said. “It’s a bowl with a rich tradition and we’re honored to become part of it. We’re also excited about the opportunity to play Georgia Tech, an outstanding team that will be a great challenge.”

“Accepting a bid to the TaxSlayer Bowl is a well-deserved reward for a team and coaching staff that showed remarkable resilience this season,” Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart said. “We are building a program and playing in a bowl this prominent is an important step in that process. We look forward to our time in a great city and being joined there by a large contingent of the Big Blue Nation.” 

This match-up will mark the Yellow Jacket’s eighth appearance in the TaxSlayer Bowl, with a current record of 3-4-0.  Paul Johnson is in his ninth season as head coach of the Yellow Jackets.  

“Playing in such a terrific bowl with a long, storied history is a great reward for our student-athletes after winning five of the last six games to close the regular season. We have a lot of respect for Coach Stoops and Kentucky and look forward to a great trip to Jacksonville and a great game,” said Coach Paul Johnson.

Named ACC Coach of the Year three times, Johnson has led Georgia Tech to eight bowl games in nine seasons and three ACC Championship games. 

“It is a great honor to be selected to participate in the TaxSlayer Bowl. In addition to its close proximity to Atlanta, north and central Florida is home to a large number of Georgia Tech alumni. We’re excited for the opportunity to bring our football team to Jacksonville for one of college football’s most outstanding bowl games,” said Todd Stansbury, Georgia Tech's director of athletics.

LISTEN: TaxSlayer Bowl's Sunday evening coaches' teleconference

Top players

  • Kentucky: RB Stanley Williams, 1,135 yards rushing, seven touchdowns
  • Georgia Tech: QB Justin Thomas, 1,454 yards passing and eight touchdowns, 562 yards rushing and five TDs

Notable

  • Kentucky: The Wildcats won seven of their last 10, punctuated by a 41-38 upset of rival Louisville, to remain in contention for the SEC East title until November and earn their first bowl berth since the 2010 season.
  • Georgia Tech: The Yellow Jackets also ended the regular season by beating their in-state rival, knocking off Georgia to close the year on a four-game winning streak and earn bowl eligibility for the 19th time in 20 years.

Bowl history

  • Kentucky: First appearance in the Taxslayer (formerly Gator) Bowl; 16th bowl appearance in school history
  • Georgia Tech: Eighth appearance in the Taxslayer Bowl; 44th bowl appearance in school history
     

The TaxSlayer Bowl will be played at 11 a.m. Dec. 31 and will be nationally televised on ESPN. Tickets and bowl information are available online at TaxSlayerBowl.com.

"The excitement for the TaxSlayer Bowl has been building since the beginning of the season. We are excited about the selections and look forward to a great matchup that will jump start the New Year and tax season," said TaxSlayer CEO Brian Rhodes.