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Nashville's Very Own Bowl: the History of the Music City Bowl

Come for the music, stay for a great low rate on a new mortgage!

Grant Halverson

The Music City Bowl: The Background

The idea for the Music City Bowl came into existence in early 1997, thanks in no small part to the impending arrival of the then Houston Oilers. With a new NFL stadium being built in Nashville, it only made sense to put a college bowl game there as well - although that stadium wouldn't be finished until 1999, so the inaugural Music City Bowl in 1998 was actually played in Vanderbilt Stadium. All contests since then have been played at LP Field - and will presumably continue to be played there until it is replaced or the bowl ceases to exist, because you're sure as hell not going to put something called the Music City Bowl in Fort Worth.

(Interesting side note: the Oilers' initial plan for their 1997-98 purgatory years was to play in Memphis while LP Field was being constructed, after deeming Vanderbilt Stadium - their only true option for playing in Nashville - unsuitable. But attendance in 1997 was so awful, they ended up playing 1998 in Vanderbilt Stadium anyway.)

The SEC was part of the initial discussion that led to the creation of the Music City Bowl, and they have indeed been one of the bowl's tie-ins throughout its fifteen year existence, participating in all but the 2005 contest due to lacking enough bowl-eligible teams. The other conference tie-in has rotated - from 1998 to 2001 it was the Big East, then from 2002 to 2005 it was the Big Ten. The ACC has been tied to the bowl since 2006, but after this year it will alternate that spot with the Big Ten, because there apparently aren't already enough SEC-B1G bowl matchups.

The Music City Bowl has had a bevy of sponsors over its fifteen years: after being sponsored by American General in 1998 and something called in 1999. The bowl went without a sponsor in 2000 and 2001, and since then has been sponsored by Nashville based companies: Gaylord Hotels from 2002 to 2009, and Franklin American Mortgage since then. From 2003 to 2007 it was also sponsored by Bridgestone, giving us the Gaylord Hotels Music City Bowl presented by Bridgestone. Thankfully that is no more; having just one sponsor is already one too many.

The Games

1998: Virginia Tech 38, Alabama 7

The inaugural Music City Bowl, played in Vanderbilt Stadium as LP Field wasn't finished yet. The game was played in freezing temperatures with a rain/sleet mix, making it a fun for the family affair - unless your family were Bama fans, as the Hokies crushed the Tide 38-7 on only 288 yards and 23 minutes of possession. Yes, Virginia Tech once had a defense and it was horrifyingly efficient. The game stands as VT's biggest bowl win and also the most lopsided edition of the Music City Bowl. Alabama's coach ultimately faded into obscurity as the guy before the guy before Alabama hired Nick Saban.

1999: Syracuse 20, Kentucky 13

Featuring a matchup between two "where are they now?" coaching greats, the 1999 game pitted Hal Mumme's Wildcats against Paul Pasqualoni's Orangemen. Mumme's Air Raid went 30 for 45 and 308 passing yards, but only found the endzone once, while Cuse QB Troy Nunes proved to be an absolute magician, throwing for two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to seal the win.

2000: West Virginia 49, Ole Miss 38

Legendary WVU coach Don Nehlen went out a winner, burying David Cutcliffe's Rebels team so badly in the first three quarters they took the fourth off. Newly inserted freshman quarterback Eli Manning led a 22 point Ole Miss rally with three touchdown passes in the final frame, but unfortunately for the Rebels they'd started the quarter already down by 33. Things ended up working out pretty well for Eli, though. And for Cutcliffe, eventually.

2001: Boston College 20, georgia 16

Mark Richt's first bowl game was not a successful one. The Bulldogs found the endzone after less than a minute of play and then only once more, as Tom O'Brien's defense kept them mostly in check for the final 59. A seven yard touchdown run from BC's William Green with less than five minutes remaining sealed the win for the Eagles and gave them their first three game bowl win streak.... ever.

2002: Minnesota 29, Arkansas 14

Houston Nutt's Razorbacks, fresh off a 30-3 drubbing in the SEC championship, allowed themselves to get kicked around by.... well, a kicker. Minnesota's Dan Nystrom outscored the Razorbacks by himself, kicking five field goals (setting several records in the process) and being named the game's MVP. Final score: Dan Nystrom 17, the rest of Minnesota 12, Arkansas 14.

2003: Auburn 28, Wisconsin 14

Auburn took a 14-6 lead near the end of the third quarter thanks to a blown fumble call that was instead ruled down, but Wisconsin scored with nine minutes remaining to tie the game. Then Auburn quashed all of the Badgers' hopes by scoring twice in the final four minutes, giving the SEC their first win in the history of the bowl. Tommy Tuberville, initially appalled by such an outburst of offense, decided to use offense to his advantage the following season and went undefeated. You may be familiar with how that ended up.

2004: Minnesota 20, Alabama 16

The Gophers' defense choked the life out of the Tide, holding them to 243 yards on 22 minutes of possession and forcing an early fumble that they recovered in the endzone. Marion Barber and Laurence Maroney took care of the rest, rushing for 292 yards and a touchdown. Go ahead, laugh at Bama for losing to Minnesota in a bowl game. Nick Saban doesn't care. He wouldn't arrive in Tuscaloosa for another three years. Now he's got four rings. Laugh at that.

2005: Virginia 34, Minnesota 31

The Gophers returned to the Music City Bowl to face not another SEC opponent (as - for the first and only time in the bowl's history - the SEC did not have enough teams to fill its slot), but instead the stand-in Virginia Cavaliers. The Cavs had lost four coaches to other jobs (among them being Al Golden to Temple and RON PRINCE to Kansas State), but even with a skeleton crew on the sideline managed to win a shootout after kicking a field goal with 1:08 remaining.

2006: Kentucky 28, Clemson 20

A Tommy Bowden coached Clemson team who was favored by ten points instead lost by eight, in what could be an early example of Clemsoning. C.J. Spiller, Jacoby Ford, and James Davis combined for only 113 total yards and the Tigers turned the ball over four times, giving Kentucky their first bowl win since 1984. The #goacc has always been strong with you, Clemson. Always.

2007: Kentucky 35, Florida State 28

Unlike Clemson, FSU came into their Music City Bowl matchup with Kentucky as nine point underdogs, being down 34(!) players due to injury and suspensions stemming from a recent academic cheating scandal. Kentucky took advantage, edging the Seminoles and completing a Bowden Sweep in the process. Man, it'll sure be nice when Louisville arrives and the ACC finally has someone that can consistently beat Kentucky.

2008: Vanderbilt 16, Boston College 14

A hot Boston College team (despite losing the ACC championship game) came in against a very cold Vanderbilt team and went full #goacc. The Eagles outgained the Commodores 331 to 200 but Vandy's defense was content on doing most of the work, forcing three turnovers and recovering a BC fumble in the endzone. Three field goals on top of that (including the game winner with 3:26 remaining) were all else the Dores needed, winning their first bowl in 53 years. Boston College fired head coach Jeff Jagodzinski after this game (for non-results related reasons) and hasn't been the same since.

2009: Clemson 21, Kentucky 13

Clemson fell all the way to the #5 pick after losing the ACC championship game (being 8-5 will do that. remember when the ACC Coastal was the dominant division?), screwing up the Bowl's plans to pit two basketball powers' football teams together in UNC and Kentucky, as the Tigers couldn't fall any further. Instead they got set up for a chance at revenge against the Wildcats. Strong winds wreaked havoc throughout the game, knocking down field goals and brutally shortening punts - one by Kentucky only went 14 yards. C.J. Spiller had 172 all-purpose yards and a touchdown, helping Clemson win and sending Kentucky coach Rich Brooks into retirement. (Coaching Kentucky for seven years was probably also a contributing factor.)

2010: North Carolina 30, Tennessee 27

Tennessee and bizarre football endings were no strangers in 2010, and the Volunteers seemed determined to top their weird-ass finish against LSU from earlier in the year. At the end of regulation, UNC spiked the ball with approximately fifteen men on the field. The game was over.....

But! It was determined UNC had spiked the ball with a second left, giving the Heels a chance to tie - which they did, and eventually prevailed in double overtime. This sequence of events led to a new rule in 2011: a foul in the final minute of a half that results in a clock stoppage will result in a ten second runoff, should the other team accept. (UNC would be victimized by the rule they helped create that very year, in their game against.... Georgia Tech. See, ACC refs don't always give the nod to the Carolina schools!)

2011: Mississippi State 23, Wake Forest 17

The CLANGA edition saw Mississippi State commit four turnovers, lose the time of possession battle by nearly twelve minutes, and still win, thanks to a woefully inept Wake Forest offense that converted only two of its 17 third downs and averaged 1.7 yards a carry on 38 rush plays. Mississippi State also tried to take the title of "Music City" and give it to Starkville, but eventually settled on "Clangatown" instead.

2012: Vanderbilt 38, NC State 24

Featuring a NC State team sans Tom O'Brien and hometown favorites Vanderbilt, the 2012 edition saw the Wolfpack outgain Vandy by two hundred yards and also lose by two touchdowns, thanks to the Wolfpack turning the ball over five times. The Commodores' offense was more than happy to let their defense do most of the work and then take credit for everything, scoring 38 points on just 225 yards of offense. TOB would have been very disappointed in you, NC State offense.