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Way Early Look at the Kentucky Football Schedule

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Optimism is high. Kentucky is being mentioned as a legitimate SEC East contender. What lies ahead for the Cats? 2017 opponents combine for a 79-73 record. Nine teams are coming off bowl appearances. However, no team on the slate won double digit games a year ago.

What does that mean? Not a great deal. Several foes return a high number of starters to include the reigning Heisman Trophy winner in Lamar Jackson and 2017 Heisman hopefuls Nick Fitzgerald and Nick Chubb.

Let’s take a quick look:

At Southern Miss

-2016 record: 7-6

-11 returning starters: 6-offense, 5-defense 

-Top player: RB Ito Smith 165 carries, 1459 yards, 17 TD’s 

-Summary: The Golden Eagles sustained Kentucky’s best first half shot and then commenced to beat the Wildcats in all phases of the game as well as on the scoreboard. Star QB Nick Mullens and several defensive contributors have moved on. UK has a score to settle in Hattiesburg.

Eastern Kentucky

-2016 record: 3-8

-13 returning starters: 6-offense, 7-defense

-Summary: New OLB Coach Dean Hood will reunite with his former team. The Colonels controlled the Cats but fell short in overtime in its last trip to Lexington. That close call should serve as motivation for the Cats in week 2.

At South Carolina

-2016 record: 6-7

-16 returning starters: 10-offense, 6-defense

-Top Players: QB Jake Bentley completed 65% of his passes for 1420 yards and 9 TD’s in just seven games.

-Summary: Carolina will receive a plethora of preseason media love due to its talented quarterback, strong finish, and youthful roster. Kentucky has won three straight in this series. This game could play a factor in the early SEC East race. Vital, crucial road game for Mark Stoops.

Florida

-2016 record: 9-4

-16 returning starters: 10-offense, 6-defense

-Top Players: OT Martez Ivey, RB Jordan Scarlett 889 yards, 6 TD’s

-Summary: The Streak…..

Eastern Michigan

-2016 record: 7-6

-16 returning starters: 8-offense, 8-defense

-Top Player: QB Brogan Roback 2964 yards, 18 TD’s

-Summary: EMU played in its first bowl game in 29 years and enjoyed its first winning season since 1995. For those thinking this was a cupcake, think again.

Missouri

-2016 record: 4-8

-14 returning starters: 8-offense, 6-defense

-Top Players: QB Drew Lock 237-434, 3399 yards, 23 TD’s. RB Damarea Crockett 153 carries, 1062 yards, 10 TD’s
-Summary: The Barry Odom era did not start off with an abundance of success. However, Mizzou did beat Arkansas in its season finale. The Tigers will sport a wide-open offense with stars that can rack up yards and points. UK currently holds a two-game winning streak in this series. Just like a year ago, UK’s games against the two schools from Columbia (Missouri and South Carolina) will greatly influence its win-loss column. Must win here.

At Mississippi State

-2016 record: 6-7

-15 returning starters: 8-offense, 7-defense

-Top Players: QB Nick Fitzgerald 1375 rushing yards, 16 TD’s on the ground. Passing: 196-361, 2423 yards, and 21 TD’s.

-Summary: Mark Stoops finally beat Dan Mullen when Austin MacGinnis hit a 51 yard, game-winning field goal at the end of regulation. The Dogs loaded up on JUCO players and will be out for retribution. Miss State is my surprise team in the West and could be vastly improved. Extremely difficult road game.

Tennessee

-2016 record: 9-4

-14 returning starters: 7-offense, 7-defense

-Top Players: RB John Kelly 98 carries, 630 yards. 

-Summary: The Volunteers were supposed to climb back into national prominence in 2016. That didn’t happen. Kentucky has experienced very little success in this series. Unlike most seasons, 2017 will feature a game between two evenly matched teams. This one could be decided by turnovers, big-plays, and special teams.

Ole Miss

-2016 record: 5-7

-11 returning starters: 5-offense, 6-defense

-Top Players: QB Shea Patterson 880 yards, 6 TD’s.

-Summary: The Rebels state of mind could be in question coming off a disappointing 5-7 season and in the midst of an NCAA investigation for rules violations and a self-imposed postseason ban for the upcoming season. UK dodges Alabama, Auburn, and LSU from the West. Mississippi presents a winnable cross-divisional game for the Wildcats.

At Vanderbilt

-2016 record: 6-7

-17 returning starters: 9-offense, 8-defense

-Top Player: RB Ralph Webb 250 carries, 1283 yards, 13 TD’s.

-Summary: The Vanderbilt defense has given UK recent fits. It’s ring leader, LB Zach Cunningham, is gone to the NFL. The Wildcats laid an egg during its last trip to Nashville. A repeat performance could damage season momentum.

At Georgia

-2016 record: 8-5

-18 returning starters: 8-offense, 10-defense

-Top Players: RB’s Nick Chubb 224 carries, 1130 yards, 8 TD’s. RB Sony Michel 152 carries, 840 yards, and 4 TD’s. 

-Summary: Georgia returns all but one starter on defense and a talented corps of offensive skill players. That combination will catapult the Dawgs as favorites to win the SEC East. Georgia stole one in Commonwealth Stadium in 2016.

Louisville

-2016 record: 9-4

-13 returning starters: 7-offense, 6-defense

-Top Players: QB Lamar Jackson 1571 rushing yards, 21 touchdowns on the ground. Passing: 3543 yards, 30 TD’s.
-Summary: Stephen Johnson stole the show in Papa John’s Stadium a year ago as the Cats brought the Governor’s Cup trophy back to Lexington. The Cardinals lose several key defensive players and must rebuild an offensive line that struggled in its final three games of 2016.

Challenges and potential road blocks litter the 2017 schedule. But, there are also several opportunities to squelch naysayers. There are no “unwinnable” games which is a significant change from past seasons.

September 2nd vs. Southern Miss is the only date that this team should have on its mind. There will be no lack of offseason motivation with a 44-35, 2nd half butt kicking lingering.

Article written by Freddie Maggard

Former University of Kentucky Quarterback and Andy Griffith Fan Club President

10 Comments for Way Early Look at the Kentucky Football Schedule



  1. za
    3:22 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    8 wins is not out of the question. GO CATS!



  2. RackEmWillie
    3:29 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    They will go anywhere from 3-9 to 6-6 this year.

    EKU, EMU and Ole Miss are the teams I feel most confident about. With Southern Miss being next. Followed by Vandy, and then Tennessee.

    They aren’t beating Florida or Georgia, and probably not Louisville. Mississippi State will be better than people expect, and UK got lucky in beating them at home.

    I think the South Carolina and Mizzou games are anywhere from confident wins to confident losses. Mizzou can’t be that bad again, and South Carolina will be a much better team, on the road, with something major to prove by not losing to UK 4 years in a row.

    Cats got a few lucky breaks last season, and a few unlucky breaks as well.

    If I were betting, I’d go with 5-7. And a surprisingly hot seat for Stoops.



    • TBW3011
      5:17 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

      3-9 with this schedule? Lol. That’s comical.



    • RackEmWillie
      9:18 am April 12, 2017 Permalink

      I’m not going to automatically assume that UK beats Southern Miss, South Carolina, Vandy and Mizzou. They went 3-1 against those teams, and only 1 of those wins was by double digits. South Carolina and Vandy were close games last year, both of those games are on the road and South Carolina finished the season with a ton of momentum for themselves.

      But, we can’t pretend that UK was just worlds better than the teams they beat last year. UK was about 5 yards from being 5-7, again. I would love for UK to win every game, but I can’t objectively look at their close games last year, see how the teams we beat should be better, and then automatically assume UK wins those games again.

      I very well may be wrong, but, it’s difficult to predict UK to beat any SEC team 4 years in a row, or 3 years in a row. Or on the road.

      I’m going with 5-7 with wins over Southern Miss, EKU, EMU, Mizzou, and Ole Miss. I think they have close games with South Carolina, Vandy, Tennessee and UofL. But they just don’t quite finish those games out for one reason or another.



  3. jaws2
    3:53 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    Just my opinion, I think we get 7 wins this year. Based on our history I can’t believe anyone thinks this is an ‘easy’ schedule. We still have to play 8 SEC teams and no team on the schedule is going to be weaker than last year. We play 4 of those on the road and until we prove we can win more than 1 a year, getting 8 wins is going to be real tough.



  4. jestcat
    4:05 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    I will make it short. Tough schedule next year. I think 5 and 7. And thats with an upset win along the way.



    • TBW3011
      5:18 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

      It’s not a tough schedule though. As weak as it can possibly be really. And I say that in relation to other SEC schedules.



  5. AmazzzingLarry
    4:50 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    No Alabama, Auburn, or LSU this year. If you have to play two teams from the West, Ole Miss and MSU aren’t the worst draws, although playing at Ole Miss is always rough.



  6. aaron2097
    6:23 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    These comments are mind boggling. While the schedule has its challenges, there is no better opportunity for Kentucky to compete in the East. We get to play Ole Miss and Miss State from the West, and Miss. State will not be all that improved. We play Florida and Tennessee at home, as well as a Louisville team that will not be nearly as good as last year. And Kentucky’s talent level is noticeably better than Mizzou’s, South Carolina’s, and Vandy’s. Southern Miss will also be worse than last year. Any predictions that include 3-5 wins for next season are coming from people who don’t actually follow this team or the SEC in general very closely



  7. rem392
    8:20 pm April 11, 2017 Permalink

    aaron, I’m with you. This is the best chance we’ve had for a strong finish in the east in a long time. They will have to bring it every game, as we saw what can happen in the second half against So. Miss last year, but this team has a legitimate chance to win 8 games. If the defensive line produces we can have a big year. There is talent on this team.