Kentucky will be looking for its third straight bowl appearance in football this season as Mark Stoops looks to continue to strengthen his program, and according to Athlon Sports, the Wildcats’ schedule will help them get there.
Athlon ranked every SEC team’s schedule for the 2018 season, and Rob McVey ranked UK 11th out of the conference’s 14 teams.
The Wildcats’ non-conference slate is fairly underwhelming, even with a road matchup against in-state rival Louisville. They are fortunate to get SEC East foes Georgia and South Carolina at home. Although that probably won’t be enough to help the Wildcats get into the win column in either case. The SEC East road schedule appears slightly less daunting at first glance. However, the ‘Cats have college football’s longest active losing streak against Florida (31 in a row), and they haven’t beaten Tennessee in Knoxville since 1984. Chances are Mark Stoops’ squad will be underdogs in Columbia against Mizzou as well. The annual crossover matchup against Mississippi State could be tougher than usual this season. And it’s never easy going on the road to face Texas A&M.
The “fairly underwhelming” non-conference slate that McVey mentions features the Louisville Cardinals, the Middle Tennessee State Blue Raiders, the Central Michigan Chippewas and the Murray State Racers, so McVey’s analysis there is pretty spot on.
The toughest game on that slate is the Governor’s Cup against the Cardinals. No one really knows what Louisville will turn out to be next year, but one thing’s for sure: Lamar Jackson isn’t walking through that door, and that alone gives UK a better chance than it had last year to beat Louisville.
As for the conference slate, streaks be damned, UK has a good shot at getting some road wins. The Florida Gators’ winning streak over the Wildcats has to end eventually and the Tennessee Volunteers are likely to be terrible again, so that’s a good shot at two road wins. As for the home games, Stoops inexplicably owns the South Carolina Gamecocks as of late, and the Vanderbilt Commodores are ... well, they’re the Vanderbilt Commodores.
Kentucky still has to play the Georgia Bulldogs, and it’s pretty obvious what column that one goes in, but the rest of their schedule works out favorably when it comes to home/away matchups, and the strength of the non-conference schedule will work in UK’s favor as well.