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Key stretch: Kentucky

8/29/2011

Today, we take a look at the Kentucky Wildcats and a stretch of games that could make or break their season.

Key stretch: Louisville (Sept. 17), Florida (Sept. 24), at LSU (Oct. 1), at South Carolina (Oct. 8)

Breakdown: It's easy to make the case that the first game in this stretch may be the most important one the Wildcats will play all season. Not only is Louisville a rivalry game that will have recruiting implications in the state, but it's a game the Wildcats probably need to win if they're going to keep alive their bowl streak. Lose that game, and those next three -- all against teams that will start the season nationally ranked -- become even more daunting. The Wildcats have to find a way to come out of those first six games with at least a .500 record, because finding more than two SEC wins during the season is hardly a given. The Wildcats have won a total of seven SEC games over the last three seasons.

Prediction: Most Kentucky fans would take a 2-2 record right now and run with it. That would mean upsetting at least one of the three Top 25 teams. Keep in mind that the Wildcats have lost 24 in a row to Florida and had lost 10 in a row to South Carolina before rallying to beat the Gamecocks last season in Lexington. Closing out the stretch with back-to-back road games at LSU and South Carolina is especially difficult. It helps that the first two games are at home, but a 1-3 record looks about right with that lone victory coming over Louisville. The Gators, Tigers and Gamecocks will all be too good defensively for the Wildcats, who're having to replace just about everybody on offense who made a play for them last season.

The rundown