1. The Louisville game moves to the end of the season
This is the obvious change from years past. Moving the game to the end of the season amps up the rivalry angle, as the best college football in-state rivalries take place that weekend (Florida/Florida State, Clemson/South Carolina, Georgia/Georgia Tech). That’s also Thanksgiving weekend, which means there will be some serious trash talking at divided homes during the three-day build-up to kickoff. In addition, a big win over the Cards could really set the tone for the next season, which Kentucky feels will be its breakout year.
2. Callin’ Baton Rouge
Mississippi State and LSU are Kentucky’s two SEC West opponents next year, and the Tigers at home are a pretty unfortunate draw when it comes to the chances of winning the game, but it sets up the road trip many of us have been waiting for. Seeing a game in Death Valley is on any sports fan’s bucket list, and the tailgating scene in Baton Rouge is legendary. Kentucky will be a huge underdog in that game, but would there be anything more fun than going to the LSU game and giving Les Miles and the Tigers a scare?
3. Vandy will be the cure for the Florida hangover
The other major change in the schedule is the Vandy game moving from the end of the season to the beginning of the conference run. Kentucky will still open the SEC schedule at Florida, which never goes well, but at least they have a bye week followed by a winnable game against Vandy at home to follow up with. In the past few years, the Florida game has been followed by South Carolina, which isn’t much of a reprieve. If the Cats lose in Gainesville, they have a good chance to reclaim the momentum they built in the non-conference schedule with a win over the Commodores. If they beat Florida, just try to stop that train.
4. The bye weeks are good
UK will have bye weeks prior to the Vandy game and the Louisville game. Having a week off after the Tennessee game to prepare for Louisville will be crucial. Not only can the Cats take an extra week to rest and heal, the hype leading up to the showdown in Louisville will be epic.
5. There is a path to a bowl game
We’ve talked about how 2014 could be the season the Cats start to turn some heads. While 2015 may be their breakout year, Drew Barker and the 2014 class will be on campus and the Stoops system will fully be in place. Fortunately, there seems to be a path to the bowl game in this schedule. Let’s briefly go through it, game-by-game:
Aug. 30: UT Martin — Win
Sept. 6: Ohio University — Win
Sept. 13: at Florida — Probable loss
Sept. 27: Vanderbilt — Potential win
Oct. 4: South Carolina — Probable loss
Oct. 11: ULM — Win
Oct. 18: at LSU — Probable loss
Oct. 25: Mississippi State — Potential win
Nov. 1: at Missouri — Potential win
Nov. 8: Georgia — Probable loss
Nov. 15: at Tennessee — Potential win
Nov. 29: at Louisville — Potential win
So, three sure wins, five potential wins, and four probable losses. Could the Cats go bowling in 2014?