Kentucky is projected by many to have the toughest schedule in all of college football next season, but do not let that get you down or temper your enthusiasm for Mark Stoops’ first season on the sidelines. One year ago, Ole Miss was coming off a 2-10 season, had a first-year head coach in Hugh Freeze and also had a schedule that many believed to be as tough as any in the country. When Phil Steele ranked the Rebels’ 2012 schedule as 2nd-toughest in the country last June, he was probably counting on Arkansas and Auburn to be a factor in the SEC.
Arkansas was ranked No. 10 in both preseason polls even after Bobby Petrino’s motorcycle accident, but they finished 4-8. Auburn was ranked No. 25 in the preseason coaches’ poll, but finished 3-9. Arkansas and Auburn were a pair of games that figured to be losses for Hugh Freeze in his first year at Ole Miss, but he ended up winning both of them. The Rebels went on to win their bowl game in Freeze’s first season and the program has enjoyed continued success with a top-ranked 2013 recruiting class.
Familiar storylines, huh?
There’s only one team on Kentucky’s 2013 schedule that I would say with very high confidence is going to be exactly as good as they are projected to be, and that is Alabama. Outside of the Crimson Tide, South Carolina is the only other program on Kentucky’s schedule that has won eight games in each of the last three seasons. You may look at the schedule now and only see four or five wins, but Ole Miss fans probably saw the same going into last season. There could very well be a team, or two, on UK’s schedule that ends up not being nearly as good as expected. In recent history, UK’s wins over four (2006) and five-loss (2009) Georgia teams were ones that come to mind as victories that nobody saw coming at the start of the season.
Louisville, Florida, Mississippi State, Vanderbilt and Georgia have all had their ups and downs in recent history, and who’s to say that any of these teams couldn’t be victims to a disappointing 2013? Not much is expected out of Missouri, and Tennessee isn’t expected to see too much improvement in Butch Jones’ first season. Who on this year’s schedule, if anyone, could possibly take a step back this season or not live up to expectations?