SEC 2013: Kentucky's Schedule Has Grown Up

USA Today Sports

The Wildcats have the usual mix of nonconference teams lined up for Mark Stoops this year. So why does the slate look so much more intimidating than usual?

This is an overview. Predictions come later.

8.31.13 | vs. WESTERN KENTUCKY (Nashville)
9.7.13 | MIAMI (OH)
9.14.13 | LOUISVILLE
9.28.13 | FLORIDA

Yes, Kentucky and Western Kentucky are playing their football game in Tennessee. No, I don't understand it either. Must be a lot of WKU fans in Nashville? In any case, this is a far different game than it would have been three years ago, before the "They s'posed to be SEC" game of 2011 and the WKU win in 2012. Oh, and Western Kentucky has a new head coach. Perhaps you've heard of him. The whole month, though, reveals how Kentucky's "bank shot for two SEC wins and get into a bowl game" strategy is starting to fray. Western Kentucky is improving, and Louisville is coming off a season in which it won a BCS game against Florida. The Wildcats are likely to finish the month no better than 2-2, and 1-3 is by no means out of the realm of possibility.

10.5.13 | at SOUTH CAROLINA
10.12.13 | ALABAMA
10.24.13 | at MISSISSIPPI STATE

The first two weeks of October finish off a brutal stretch for the Wildcats that goes Florida-at South Carolina-Alabama, otherwise known as three of the better teams in the SEC. They do get a bye before traveling to Starkville, but even that trip is going to be a tricky Thursday game. Again, don't be stunned if Kentucky has just a single win at the end of October -- and anything more than two wins should be considered wildly successful.

11.2.13 | ALABAMA STATE
11.9.13 | MISSOURI
11.16.13 | at VANDERBILT
11.23.13 | at GEORGIA
11.30.13 | TENNESSEE

Alabama State is a more traditional kind of Kentucky nonconference game: A sugary-sweet cupcake that can easily be flattened. But the seemingly inevitable win could be the first victory for the Wildcats in almost two months. You do have to wonder how the team's confidence would fare under that rough ride, particularly with two more winnable games against Missouri and Tennessee on the docket. The other two games don't look particularly promising: Vanderbilt is probably a better team that Kentucky straight up, and the game's in Nashville; and there's little hope for the Wildcats to keep up with Georgia regardless of the venue.

All of which leads to the conclusion that it's going to be another long season in Lexington. The scheduling philosophies haven't changed that much for Mark Stoops' first year, but the schedule sure looks a lot different than it used to.

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