Schedule analysis: Kentucky

June, 3, 2014
6/03/14
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Mark Stoops enters his second season at Kentucky, and the Wildcats are looking to snap their 16-game SEC losing streak.

[+] EnlargeMark Stoops
Andy Lyons/Getty ImagesCoach Mark Stoops and the Wildcats are looking to beat an SEC team for the first time since the end of the 2011 season.
Nonconference opponents (with 2013 records)
Aug. 30: UT Martin (7-5)
Sept. 6: Ohio (7-6)
Oct. 11: Louisiana-Monroe (6-6)
Nov. 29: at Louisville (12-1)

SEC home games
Sept. 27: Vanderbilt
Oct. 4: South Carolina
Oct. 25: Mississippi State
Nov. 8: Georgia

SEC road games
Sept. 13: at Florida
Oct. 18: at LSU
Nov. 1: at Missouri
Nov. 15: at Tennessee

Gut-check time: Florida may not necessarily be the best team Kentucky will play next season, but the Gators have been nothing short of a nightmare for the Wildcats going on three decades now. Florida has won 27 straight games in the series. Kentucky's last win over Florida came in 1986. For perspective, Galen Hall was coaching the Gators, and Jerry Claiborne was coaching the Wildcats. The last time Kentucky won in Gainesville was 1979. So, obviously, it's been a while. Streaks (both good and bad) aren't supposed to matter, but the Wildcats will have some serious history working against them when they go on the road this September for their SEC opener.

Trap game: Kentucky lost each of the last two seasons to Western Kentucky. The Hilltoppers aren't on the schedule in 2014, but that October home game with Louisiana-Monroe is one the Wildcats had better not take lightly. It's sandwiched between a home game with South Carolina and a road date with LSU. Moreover, the Warhawks typically don't scare easily when they venture into opposing SEC stadiums.

Snoozer: The opener against UT Martin offers a chance to get in the win column right off the bat, but there shouldn't be much drama against the FCS Skyhawks. If there is, it will be another long wait until basketball season in the Bluegrass State.

Telltale stretch: The good news is that there's a bye prior to the regular-season finale at Louisville, but three of Kentucky's four games in November are away from home. The Wildcats begin that grind at Missouri on Nov. 1, then face Georgia the next week in their only November home game and close the season at Tennessee on Nov. 15 and then at Louisville two weeks later on Nov. 29.

Final analysis: On the surface, the 2014 schedule doesn't look quite as menacing as a year ago when the Wildcats faced five teams that finished the season ranked in the Top 25, including four teams that finished in the top 15 nationally. A home game with Alabama is replaced by an away game with LSU, so that's essentially a wash. But the Wildcats get Mississippi State in Lexington, which should make that game a little more manageable. There won't be anything easy about the second half of the schedule. The Wildcats play five straight weeks against SEC opponents without a break, starting with the road trip to LSU on Oct. 18 and ending with a trip to Tennessee on Nov. 15. The first order of business is simply winning an SEC game. Kentucky hasn't beaten an SEC team since the end of the 2011 season. But Stoops has recruited well, and this is a team that should be improved. Making a run at a bowl game isn't out of the realm of possibility. But if the Wildcats are going to do that, they have to be at least 4-2 heading into the second half of the season.

Chris Low | email

College Football

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