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Kentucky Football: Return to Glory Part II -- The SEC

As anyone who follows college football closely (and even those of us who don't) know, the broad consensus is that the SEC is, top to bottom, the best football league in the land.  Evidence of this can be found everywhere, from the amazing number of SEC programs in the Rivals top 25 toughest schedules we blogged about earlier, to this article yesterday at entitled "Why SEC football is tops", the quality of this league is recognized by sports writers and bloggers alike.

Does SEC football mean "too much to too many people" as the Scout article above suggests?  Maybe, but here in Kentucky, we are mainly focused on returning our football program to respectability after many years of wandering in the wilderness.  Our Music City Bowl championship and 8-5 record have done much to further this end, but the SEC is about nothing if not consistent quality, and not even the most head-in-the-clouds Cat fan can say we have reached that distinction.

So what about the league this year?  So how tough is the SEC?  Well, Sports Illustrated's Stewart Mandel had this to say about the the SEC in 2007:

1) SEC: Simply put, this year's SEC could be the toughest conference in history. I'm not exaggerating. It's extremely rare for a league to not only boast so many quality teams at the top (LSU, Florida, Auburn, Arkansas, Georgia and Tennessee) but also so little dead weight at the bottom. Really, it's just Mississippi State. You've got two former national championship coaches, Steve Spurrier and Nick Saban, leading what may be only the seventh- or eighth-best teams in the league. Kentucky won eight games last year. And Vandy is no longer a gimme (just ask Georgia). It's a perfect storm for the SEC right now with so many accomplished coaches, so much elite talent and so many returning veterans all at once. [Emphasis mine.]

Let's just reiterate what Mandel said above that I highlighted:  Toughest.  League.  In history.  

I think that pretty much sums it all up.  For those Louisville fans who wonder why we are always bitching and complaining about our schedule versus yours, walk a mile in our shoes.  But give the Cards some credit, for it is certainly due -- the Big East ranks 4th behind the SEC, Pac 10 and Big 10.  Not exactly cupcake city.

Want more?  Well, CSTV's Adam Caparell has a pre-season top 25 out, and much has been made of Kentucky's presence there at #23.  But another interesting fact is that no less than 8 SEC teams are in his top 25 -- that is 2/3 of the entire conference!

Sticking with the CSTV theme, Trev Alberts writes in this column that the Big 10 is falling further and further behind the SEC.  His point is not that the Big 10 has been historically bad, but that recent history points to increasing SEC domination over the once-premiere college football conference.

So where does this leave Kentucky?  Just where we have always been, only better.  Kentucky has a very tough schedule this year, but every SEC team does.  We play the cream of the crop in the SEC this year, including LSU and Florida, who figure to be the top 2 teams in the league early, as well as Georgia, South Carolina and rival Tennesse.  Throw in Louisville, and you have 6 games against pre-season nationally-ranked opponents.

So how does Kentucky return to glory facing this murderer's row of programs?  The same way all teams who aspire to greatness do -- we beat some of them.  Beating Kent State and Florida Atlantic and Vanderbilt (tougher this year) is one thing, but to return to glory, we must take down some of the SEC's big boys.  We have to look at it this way -- this schedule provides us an opportunity to excel.

Are we close enough to "being there" to take advantage?

The Wildcat Blog has some excerpts from Rich Brooks' interview with Kentucky Sports Radio if you are too lazy or just don't have time to listen.