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Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Schedule analysis: Kentucky

By Edward Aschoff

The Wildcats have a revamped defensive scheme and will be looking for playmakers:

Nonconference opponents (with 2010 records)

Sept 1: Western Kentucky (2-10) (in Nashville, Tenn.)
Sept 10: Central Michigan (3-9)
Sept. 17: Louisville (7-6)
Oct. 22: Jacksonville State (9-3)

SEC home games

Sept. 24: Florida
Oct. 29: Mississippi State
Nov. 5: Ole Miss
Nov. 26: Tennessee

SEC road games

Oct. 1: at LSU
Oct. 8: at South Carolina
Nov.12: at Vanderbilt
Nov. 19: at Georgia

Gut-check time: Kentucky hosts Florida on Sept. 24 before heading to LSU and South Carolina. The Wildcats probably won’t be favored in any of those games, but this is a great chance to develop some character within the team. Kentucky certainly won't roll over and the team did upset South Carolina a week after the Gamecocks beat No. 1 Alabama last season.

Trap game: Kentucky will have to be alert when Jacksonville State visits on Oct. 22. Remember, these Gamecocks walked into Oxford and upset Ole Miss in 2010.

Snoozer: Western Kentucky ranked 68th in total offense, giving up 380 yards a game. Kentucky’s offense will be looking to make a statement in the opener and this is the team to do it against.

Telltale stretch: It’s a bit of a long one, but Kentucky could be in it until the end of each of its last five games. The Wildcats begin with home games against Mississippi State and Ole Miss, before traveling to Vanderbilt and Georgia. Kentucky concludes the season hosting Tennessee. At least two wins during this stretch could ensure the Wildcats play in their sixth straight bowl game.

Final analysis: Kentucky’s hopes for another year in the postseason will hinge on beginning the year 3-0 before entering a treacherous stretch against Florida, LSU and South Carolina. The Wildcats haven’t beaten the Gators since 1986, and it certainly won’t be easy to get wins in Baton Rouge or Columbia. What will help the Wildcats is that they host Mississippi State at the end of October and Tennessee in the season finale, but they have to face Georgia on the road.