Well if you watched the games tonight, you know that the Cats are now in a 4 way tie for the SEC East lead and have been given their third or fourth life in attempting to win the Division title. But I cant have another day of talking about our basketball issues….for in the spirit of bipartisanship, we must talk about some football problems too….mainly, the poor formulation of a football schedule by the UK Athletics Department. Now I must preface this with a point that cannot be said enough….this staff has done an amazing job with the football program and has pushed it to a plateau that I think should be the UK goal……bowl game every year, contend for 8-9 wins in very good years. That is where UK football is right now and Mitch Barnhart as AD, along with Rich Brooks and his staff have made it happen. Not enough can be said for that.
Having said, great staffs can make great mistakes. And the 2009 UK football schedule makes a very good to great season almost impossible. Now some of this is beyond UK’s control. The SEC schedule makers were not kind to the Cats this year…..this is the season where they get the “beatable” teams on the road (mainly South Carolina. Georgia and Auburn) and the best teams at home (Florida, Alabama). That is a tough recipe because it means that the games against teams that you are in the ballpark of talent with are being played at their home field…..where the crowd can make the difference. In addition, the schedule makers have front-loaded the schedule….Games 3-6 have the two best teams in America potentially coming to Lexington, followed by road contests in Columbia and Auburn. Not exactly easy pickings. Winning one of those games would be good and two would be HUGE…..but losing four is a possibility.
What irks me about the scheduling however comes from what UK COULD control. Here is how the schedule looks:
09/05/09 vs Miami (OH), Cincinnati, OH
09/19/09 vs. Louisville Lexington, Ky. TBA
09/26/09 vs. Florida * Lexington, Ky. TBA
10/03/09 vs. Alabama * Lexington, Ky. TBA
10/10/09 at South Carolina * Columbia, S.C. TBA
10/17/09 at Auburn * Auburn, Ala. TBA
10/24/09 vs. Louisiana-Monroe Lexington, Ky. TBA
10/31/09 vs. Mississippi State * Lexington, Ky. TBA
11/07/09 vs. Eastern Kentucky Lexington, Ky. TBA
11/14/09 at Vanderbilt * Nashville, Tenn. TBA
11/21/09 at Georgia * Athens, Ga. TBA
11/28/09 vs. Tennessee * Lexington, Ky. TBA
The schedule as it now stands has the Cats playing in Cincinnati (not official, but is what everyone is assuming) followed by a week off, and then 11 straight games without a bye week. Because of the calendar this year, there are only 13 weeks for football instead of 12….and the Cats have wasted their bye week…..in WEEK 2! And why did this happen? Well it is hard to understand. The Cats scrambled to get the Louisiana-Monroe game, and the only date they had open was October 24. That left the potential open dates being November 7 or September 12….Eastern Kentucky (the 12th opponent) had an open date on both dates….and somehow the game got scheduled for November. Why not the second week of the year? If that had happened, the Cats could have started 3-0, had another game to prepare a young offense (and potentially young QB) and an off-week before the key Georgia and Vandy games that might decide UK’s fate. It makes no sense.
UK’s schedule making has been difficult ever since the Cats made two choices….(1) to move the Louisville home game to the third week of the season, making the first game one of UK’s open dates. Many teams have scheduled games this first week that vary very rarely….that makes it more difficult to find teams to partner up. (2) UK has continually waited until the VERY LAST MINUTE to schedule teams for their games….this is in part seen by the lack of an official announcement yet about the opening game this year. In so doing, all teams are booked up and the Cats are left with scraps and poor dates….causing the situation we have this year.
I think Kentucky will be much better than last season. Their defense will again be solid…the receivers have another year experience and some young talent is coming in. But the schedule will make it very difficult for them to win more than 7 games. If you assume the three easy wins (Miami, Eastern, La-Monroe) and you give the Cats the Mississippi State, Vandy and Louisville games (which is by NO MEANS assured), then the Cats still have to win one of Florida, Alabama, Tennessee, at Georgia, at Auburn and at South Carolina. The most likely of those games is a victory over a team that we havent beaten since 1984….and that we will be playing after a 10 GAME STRETCH WITHOUT A BREAK. Had the Cats had a different schedule, they would hit that game, and the Georgia/Vandy games with a mid-season refreshment. But for reasons that I cant understand they didnt….and thus the games that will decide whether this UK team is ready to take another step forward, just got much harder.
More all day as we build towards Seth Davis for Friday. Stay tuned…..