Kentucky Football: A Look Down the Schedule, Part 1 -- The Non-conference Opponents

While basketball is the bread and butter of all UK fans, there comes a time when we need to begin focusing a bit on football.  Prognostications about the upcoming season have been all over the place, and understandably so when returning such an anemic offense, and losing several defensive stalwarts.  But in spite of that, looks very much to be in the same position as they were last year, with perhaps just enough seasoning on the offensive side to perform better.

Today, we'll be taking a look at the non-conference schedule.  For Kentucky, this is typically the "easy" part of the schedule, and deliberately so because the conference schedule is so brutally tough.  Last year, UK had four non-conference opponents in a row before beginning the SEC schedule.  This year, UK gets only two.

So let's have a look at the schedule, highlighting the non-conference teams:

Date Opponent oConf
9/5/09 vs Miami (OH) Mid-American
9/12/09 open  
9/19/09 Louisville Big East
9/26/09 Florida SEC
10/3/09 Alabama SEC
10/10/09 at South Carolina SEC
10/17/09 at Auburn SEC
10/24/09 Louisiana-Monroe Sun Belt
10/31/09 Mississippi State SEC
11/7/09 Eastern Kentucky Ohio Valley
11/14/09 at Vanderbilt SEC
11/21/09 at Georgia SEC
11/28/09 Tennessee SEC

So how does this OOC schedule compare to last year?  It is somewhat more difficult, but once again we wind up with FCS Eastern Kentucky on the schedule, something that's sure to bring snorts of derision from Georgia and South Carolina fans, among others.  Nevertheless, that's what we have.

Now, let's take a look at each of our out-of-conference opponents and see what they have to offer this year.

Miami (OH)

  • Last year's record:  1-7 (Conf) 2-10 (overall)
  • Last year's Strength of Schedule:  42.56
  • Significant wins -- None.  Miami managed to defeat only an FCS opponent and one conference opponent, Bowling Green, who was a .500 team both in conference and overall
  • Likely outcome -- Miami is still in the rebuilding mode, and even though their non-conference slate is more forgiving than last year, it's hard to see them having a winning season in the MAC.  The Miami defense was beyond weak later last season, and it would take a major breakdown for UK not to win this game going away.

Louisville

  • Last year's record:  1-6 (Conf) 5-7 (overall)
  • Las year's Strength of Schedule:  45.46
  • Significant wins -- South Florida (8-5) at home.
  • Likely outcome -- Louisville is hard to figure this year, but they have problems on paper.  A new quarterback, a new defensive coordinator and some significant losses on the offensive line could hurt them, although the line does have experienced backups moving into starting spots.  The linebacking corps, a major concern at the beginning of last year turned out OK, and they are back intact.  Victor Anderson is a capable tailback, and Doug Beaumont and Josh Chichester return at wideout. 

    UK gets Louisville in Commonwealth Stadium, and although this one is far from a lock, UK looks to be in solid shape to take the third game in a row for the Cardinals, probably sealing Kragthorpe's fate in the process.

Louisiana-Monroe

  • Last year's record:  3-4 (Conf) 4-8 (overall)
  • Last year's Strength of Schedule:  36.19
  • Significant wins -- Troy.  The Trojans are perennially the best team in the Sun Belt, and Louisiana-Monroe managed to beat them at home last year.
  • Likely outcome -- The Warhawks figure to be better than they were last year if first-year starting quarterback Trey Revel is able to deliver on some of his promise.  ULM should have a solid running attack and a very good secondary, while their defensive line is suspect, and their passing attack is an unknown.

    UK should be able to handle the Warkhawks, but they are capable of giving UK some trouble if Kentucky does not prepare well or is beat up after their two-game road swing through South Carolina and Auburn.  This is a bit of a danger game for UK for that reason.

Eastern Kentucky

  • Last year's record:  7-1 (Conf) 8-4 (overall)
  • Last year's Strength of Schedule:  25.95
  • Significant wins -- EKU had two wins over FCS teams with a winning record last year.
  • Eastern is not a bad FCS team, but they are unlikely to beat Kentucky in Commonwealth Stadium.  Western, whom Kentucky beat last year and who only manage two wins, defeated Eastern easily 37-13.  The only other FBS school they played also handed them a lopsided loss.  Anything other than a 20+ point win by UK would be considered a major upset.
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