Kentucky won the bye week with a climb up to No. 26 in the rankings and a much-needed break from football to get healthy for the second half of the season. Now it’s on to the final stretch of six games and things are looking much better than anyone could’ve ever imagined. This is arguably the easiest schedule the Wildcats will ever play, but they have to capitalize on the opportunity for an unprecedented season for the program.
Here’s how I rank what’s ahead, beginning with the hardest game of the entire season…
Athens, Ga. | Saturday, November 18
This is the only game on the schedule that Kentucky fans will watch with little optimism. Can Kentucky steal a win down in Athens? Sure, #WhyNot. But Georgia is the third-ranked team in college football right now and Sanford Stadium is one of the toughest road environments in the game, especially if there are SEC East implications on the line.
The five other remaining games are very winnable, and we should go into each one with high expectations.
2. Mississippi State
Starkville, Ms. | Saturday, October 21
Coming in at No. 2 on this list is the Cats’ next game: at Mississippi State. It will be the first road contest in over a month and the Bulldogs opened up as a 10-point favorite in the game.
You’ll have to go back to 2008 to find a Kentucky win in Starkville as the Bulldogs have taken the last three at home; and they had won seven straight in the series, until losing in Lexington on a last-second field goal one year ago.
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 25
Louisville is Kentucky’s third-toughest game on the schedule, although it doesn’t seem too tough after watching the Cards’ last two games. Louisville’s entire season hasn’t been all that impressive, but Lamar Jackson is still Lamar Jackson and he’ll be out for revenge after choking away last year’s meeting in Louisville.
If the game were played tomorrow, I think Kentucky would be favored.
4. Ole Miss
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, November 4
Ole Miss is fourth, but it’s really Shea Patterson at fourth. The Rebels’ quarterback torched Vanderbilt for 351 yards and four scores over the weekend, extending his lead on the league’s other QBs with 2,143 yards on the year.
Ole Miss has been a tough team to read, but Patterson makes them a real threat.
Nashville, Tn. | Saturday, November 11
It wasn’t all that long ago when Vanderbilt looked like a decent football team. The Commodores knocked off a top-20 team and had one of the best defenses in the country through three games, all wins; then Alabama beat the brakes off of them in Nashville and things haven’t been the same since.
Nashville has been a tough place for Kentucky in recent years, though — the Cats have dropped three straight in that empty stadium Vanderbilt calls home, and Vandy has won four of the last six overall.
This one will be easier to gauge once we see how each team looks when it’s time to play it next month.
Lexington, Ky. | Saturday, October 28
Tennessee is trash. If not for Alabama on the Vols’ schedule this coming weekend, I think Butch Jones would’ve been fired Sunday afternoon. UT will instead keep him around long enough to let him get murdered one more time, in Tuscaloosa, and then consider firing him the week of the Kentucky game.
I’m not sure he’ll make it to Lexington for Halloween weekend. If he does, the Wildcats have the opportunity to close the book on the Butch Jones era of Tennessee football. The end is near, one way or another, because the Vols are not good at football.