This year Kentucky plays its first non-conference true road game against someone not named Louisville since 2005. Take away Louisville and Indiana and that year goes all the way back to 1996 against Cincinnati. In most of the 2000’s, UK’s non-conference schedule has been quite tame. And once Indiana was dropped UK basically played Louisville and 3 bums and Louisville has been a bum a few years too.
I’ve always argued that if the fanbase and this program wants to elevate itself up that it will need to take some risks in scheduling. With the permanent addition of a 12th game a few years back, elite teams have started consistently taking much greater risks early in the season with the belief that 1 loss doesn’t entirely eliminate you from national title contention. But should UK do its best to begin moving in that direction?
What you’ll find is the elite programs in the SEC have a much easier time landing huge games. Duh, right? People want to see Alabama and Florida play the big games. Just look at the top non-conference, non-rival game for the Top 7 programs in the SEC:
Alabama: Florida St (neutral)
Auburn: at Clemson
Florida: Michigan (neutral)
Georgia: at Notre Dame
LSU: BYU (neutral)
Tennessee: Georgia Tech (neutral)
Texas A&M: at UCLA
But what about the bottom half of the league historically? Obviously UK can’t pull off playing Michigan in a nationally televised neutral site game. But outside of rivals, UK’s best non-conference game this year is Southern Miss. Does that match up with how the rest of the “have-nots” are scheduling this year?
Arkansas: TCU (neutral)
Kentucky: at Southern Miss
Mississippi St: BYU
Ole Miss: at California
South Carolina: at NC State
Vanderbilt: Kansas State
So here is my question: would you trade any of the non-conference games the other 6 teams above have with Southern Miss? Would you rather UK take a bigger chance and travel to play a California or NC State, host a BYU or Kansas State, or do you want Louisville to be the best non-conference game each year?
Future Non-Conference Opponents
2018: Central Michigan, Murray St, MTSU, Louisville
2019: Toledo, Eastern Michigan, UT-Martin, Louisville
2020: Eastern Michigan, Louisville