CLEMSON -- Like South Carolina, Clemson's bowl opponent has a rich basketball tradition -- and a middling football one.

Here's a look at what Clemson can expect when meeting Kentucky (7-5, 3-5 SEC) on Dec. 27 in the Music City Bowl:

1. These aren't the pass-happy, Tim Couch-led Wildcats.

When Clemson returns to practice after exams next week, the Tigers will have 10 practices to repair its run defense.

Sure, the Georgia Tech triple-option scheme that troubled the Tigers is difficult to prepare for, but the Tigers' run defense issues date back beyond the ACC title game and loss to South Carolina.

The Gamecocks rushed for 223 yards against the Tigers. And South Carolina is last in the SEC in rushing.

Kentucky finished fifth in rushing (193 rushing yards per game) in the SEC and averaged 4.6 yards per carry.

Kentucky quarterback/running back/receiver Randall Cobb is an explosive, versatile threat, leading the team with a 6.4 yards per carry average. He was second to Alabama's Mark Ingram in the SEC with 18 touchdowns.

To tighten up the rush defense, Dabo Swinney said there could be personnel changes.

Swinney said the problems stopping the run were not the fault of scheme or the defensive line, meaning the Clemson linebackers and corners might need to have strong practice showings to keep their jobs.

Junior quarterback Mike Hartline started the season's first five games before being sidelined by a knee injury, which limited the Kentucky passing attack.

Hartline has been working out again and might begin individual drills during practice next week. Wildcats coach Rich Brooks has not ruled him out for the bowl game.

But Hartline was just 2-3 as a starter. Kentucky went 5-2 after freshman Morgan Newton took over.

3. The Kentucky defense rests … sometimes.

Kentucky's defense ranks 10th in the SEC, allowing 362 yards per game. However, the Wildcats are not devoid of defensive talent.

Corey Peters is a first team All-SEC selection at defensive tackle, and he'll match up against a Clemson interior offensive line featuring little depth following Mason Cloy's season-ending injury and David Smith's move to tackle.

Peters has 11 tackles for loss and four sacks.

In the Wildcats' base 4-3 defense, linebacker Micah Johnson was a second-team conference selection and cornerback Trevard Lindley also earned second-team honors, despite missing four games.

4. Record-setting Wildcats.

This might be one of Brooks' better coaching jobs, in what some speculate might be his final season. According to the school's sports information department, Kentucky exceeded expectations of all national media outlets.

Consider these numbers:

--Kentucky has won at least seven straight games in four straight seasons, the first time since 1909-12.

--The Wildcats are on an 18-game non-conference winning streak, the nation's second longest.

--Kentucky defeated Auburn for the first time since 1966 and won at Georgia for the first time since 1977.

--The Music City Bowl appearance will mark a school-best fourth consecutive bowl appearance.

5. Morale matters.

The last time Clemson met Kentucky was in the same town in the same game: the 2006 Music City Bowl. It was also a Clemson loss. And like the last meeting, the Tigers enter bowl preparation coming off a defeat. In 2006, the Tigers came off a loss to South Carolina. This year, the Tigers are on a two-game losing streak, with some questioning the morale of the team. Kentucky had won three straight to before losing to Tennessee in overtime to finish the season.

Reach Travis Sawchik at tsawchik@postandcourier.com and check out his Clemson blog at www.postandcourier.om/blogs/tiger_tracks.