When Cal was asked what his goal was following the national championship his answer was simple “Go undefeated” and with the release of the full schedule today we now know the path Kentucky will have to blaze as they attempt to reach the elusive goal. Things aren’t going to be easy for the Cats this year but if you believe the hype then this is the team that can do it. Which games are going to be the hardest along the way? Here are my picks for the five biggest hurdles to 40-0:
So normally when the defending champs are coming to town you’d expect the game to be one of the more likely losses you’ll see all year. However there isn’t too much to be afraid of with this year’s Card team. First of all let’s look at the facts. To date Cal has owned Rick in the UK-UL series going 4-1 in the meetings so far. Oh and that one loss was only by 3 points on the road with the worst team Cal will ever put on the floor while head coach in Lexington. Louisville will be very good once again next season but I don’t see them as a major hurdle on the road to 40-0. They just don’t have anyone who can match the size of the new Cats. Still the game will be an epic matchup of the last two national champions.
Arkansas isn’t a tough opponent in the sense that they will feature a top flight squad of elite athletes but instead possibly the toughest environment the Cats could face all year. Something about Bud Walton arena has become magical for the Hawgs as demonstrated by their 17-1 home record last season. Their only loss came from eventual Final Four member Syracuse. Mike Anderson sure knows how to get his team ready to play in Fayetteville and Cal will need to find a way to do the same. Kentucky won’t face a ton of challenges once they get to SEC play but this one should be a game that gets some extra attention.
3. @ UNC
When the Cats travel to Chapel Hill on December 14th they will be taking part in their first true road game of the season. When you’re dealing with an untested bunch of freshman you just never know how that road environment will affect their play. To date Cal’s teams have been ready to play in the Dean Dome but the game will be against one of the few teams that can match the Cats athletically. If UK can survive this one then 40-0 start looking like a reality.
2. Michigan State
The first test of the year for the boys in Blue will come in Chicago against the top-5 Spartans. Michigan St. is loaded with talent and experience and could derail the team goal before it even gets a chance to begin. Each year the young Cats have faced a similar early test and have found a way to win (UCONN 2009, Kansas) and come up short (DUKE, UCONN 2010) in others. This year could be the hardest start of all but that’s what you can expect when you’re the top team in the land.
March 8th. The final game of the year. If the Cats can get here unbeaten then they will face a tough final boss in the form of the Florida Gators. Florida is the only team in the SEC that can match UK in talent and will have a rowdy reptile environment in Gainesville. Florida will be the hardest game the Cats could face all year but if they are focused in on going undefeated then it will be hard to derail them. Especially with a year of experience under their belt.
What games do you see as being the biggest hurdle to 40-0?