Now that the calendar has flipped to August the start of the Kentucky football is finally beginning to seem really close. The Cats report for fall camp on August 4 which will make things seem even more official. This is also an Olympic year, so Rio and all of its issues may help some fans pass the remaining few days prior to kickoff against the Southern Miss Golden Eagles on September 3.
The quest for six wins will begin then. The 2016 Kentucky football schedule was common knowledge before the 2015 season concluded but why not break it down one last time before numbers start going into the win and loss columns.
That has been one of the prevailing sentiments all along. Kentucky has seven home games this season as opposed to eight in 2015. The Cats also travel to Tuscaloosa to face the Alabama Crimson Tide.
Those two points alone are enough to let the defense rest when it comes to the difficulty department. Then add in the fact that the season opener against Southern Miss was originally supposed to a game against the UAB Blazers. The fact that former UK offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson moved down to Hattiesburg after being one and done in Lexington is just gravy. His first game at his new gig will be against a defense he knows very well.
The fact that there are even facets of Kentucky’s schedule that are less stressful is hard to imagine but there are a few. The combined 2014 win-loss record of all of Kentucky’s opponents was 90-62. So that means that heading into last season the combined winning percentage of all their opponents was .592.
Conversely, the win-loss record of all of the Cats’ 2015 opponents is 84-70 which is good for a .545 winning percentage. This is the case even with Alabama rotating onto the schedule this season.
Another thing that makes Kentucky’s schedule a little less daunting is the lack of a typical three or four game gauntlet. Typically every SEC team has a brutal, Murderer’s Row stretch of games that jump right off of the page at anyone who is looking at their schedules.
Last year Kentucky’s three-game gauntlet was a trip to Starkville to play Mississippi State followed by a home game against Tennessee and a road game at Georgia. They were outscored 121-40 in those three games.
That just isn’t the case for UK this year. Southern Miss and Florida are two tough teams to open the season with but the third game is against a New Mexico State team that went 3-9 last year. The Alabama game is obviously going to be a tough as you would imagine it to be. However it’s sandwiched in between home games with South Carolina and Vanderbilt, two teams that Kentucky is predicted to finish above in the SEC East.
The gauntlet this year would normally have been the home game with Mississippi State, Missouri on the road, Georgia at home and then Tennessee in Knoxville but Mississippi State and Missouri just aren’t at the level that we’ve seen them at in previous years.
That just leaves the road game against Louisville in the season finale all by its lonesome. Kentucky plays the Cardinals after the last home game of the year versus Austin Peay who was winless in 2015.
The schedule is challenging as always. The six wins needed to become bowl eligible will have to be earned. Having said that there are reasons to be hopeful once again. If Kentucky can play well quickly at positions that are expected to be weaknesses and/or question marks they will have plenty of opportunities to seal the deal and win some games.