Mark Stoops and Mitch Barnhart have done an unbelievable job with the Kentucky football program. From where it was six years ago to where it is today is nothing short of impressive.
If there is one criticism that I can put forth about what Stoops/Barnhart have done, it would be the nonconference football schedule.
This season, the Cats will play Toledo, Eastern Michigan, UT Martin and Louisville in the non-conference. Next year, it will be Eastern Michigan, Kent State, Illinois State, and Louisville. 2021 will have Louisiana Monroe, New Mexico State, Louisville, and a TBA announced slot that will presumably go to an FCS school.
Excuse me while I wake myself up from an abysmal slate of schools. What is the draw to come to Kroger Field to see Kentucky play against Kent State?
Look, I get it. The 8 SEC games are tough. Playing the likes of Florida, Mississippi State, and Georgia every year are tough tasks, but I still feel as if there are Power Five schools that while they would be tougher opponents; they would easily be more entertaining for fans.
To give examples, here are the three schools I would like to see a home and home series with before two MAC teams are scheduled in the same season again.
A home and home series with the Boilermakers would make a lot of sense for multiple reasons. One, it is not a far drive for many Kentucky fans. Two, it is a Big 10 opponent that the Cats might be better than most years.
This is all going without mentioning the in-state connections that Purdue has. Most notably, of course, is head coach Jeff Brohm. The former UofL quarterback and WKU head coach has taken multiple recruits from the state that Kentucky wanted. This series could be the opportunity to show who is the premiere College Football team in the area.
If we can’t get the Indiana basketball series restarted than why can’t we have the football one. From 1989 until 2005, the two schools played one another every single year.
In fact, the all-time series is led by Indiana 18-17 so the even competition is proven. This again gives fans an opportunity to travel to the away games and again have a team that would be a whole lot more fun to beat than Louisiana Monroe.
This one probably makes the most sense. Neal Brown and West Virginia should come to Kroger Field for a perfect SEC/Big 12 matchup.
For one, it is Brown coming back to Kentucky and two, it is him coaching against the coach that gave him the OC job in Lexington.
While this would be a tougher opponent than the previous two, it would probably be a lot more fun and would easily fill up Kroger Field on a Saturday afternoon.
In addition, this game would easily be picked up by ESPN instead of having a game on SEC Network plus.
Not everyone will agree with me when it comes to this non-conference schedule. There are some that do believe that we should take our three “gimme” wins a year and move on. I disagree. I would much rather take one of those and make it into a fun situation for both schools.
Wouldn’t you as a fan almost rather go 5-7, but play West Virginia than go 6-6 and play in the Birmingham Bowl?
As they always say, if you want to be the best, you have to beat the best.