There's no reason to continue to make fun of Kentucky's weak nonconference schedule; after all, you all know the score on that one. Besides, we'll have plenty of time to do that during the season. No, we'll use this post to look at the games that will likely make some sort of difference in Kentucky's trajectory -- either as a program by ending some long losing streaks or in 2010 itself by getting to a bowl.
BEAT THE STREAKS
at TENNESSEE | Nov. 27
Last Kentucky win: 1984, 17-12
On the front pages: Famine in Ethiopia (Think Band-Aid)
Even in the middle of the Fulmer disaster years, Tennessee defeated Kentucky. For almost 26 years now, it hasn't mattered how good Kentucky is or how bad Tennessee is; the result has always been the same. You're tempted to say "there's a chance this year because Tennessee is expected to be mediocre." But then you look at 2005 and 2008 and ...
at FLORIDA | Sept. 25
Last Kentucky win: 1986, 10-3
On the front pages: Iran-Contra
The Wildcats were already on a three-game losing streak when the Steve Spurrier Era began; few teams were defeating Florida after that, and Kentucky certainly wasn't one of them. Ron Zook even defeated the Wildcats thrice -- in 2002 (41-34), 2003 (24-21) and 2004 (20-3). This is perhaps the worst chance for the Wildcats to win all year, streak team or not.
SOUTH CAROLINA | Oct. 16
Last Kentucky win: 1999, 30-10
On the front pages: Violence in East Timor
Yes, South Carolina has won its last 10 games against the Wildcats, the Gamecocks' longest running winning streak against any annual SEC foe. (South Carolina's last loss to Mississippi State was also in 1999, but the two teams have played only five games since then.) If Kentucky is ever to make a run at being anything better than the No. 5 team in the SEC East, it will have to defeat the Gamecocks at least every other year.
GETTING TO A BOWL
at LOUISVILLE | Sept. 4
Charlie Strong has a long road ahead of him at Louisville, and the first test comes against the Wildcats. Unless Strong has found a magic bullet, this looks like a good chance to pick up the first UK win of the season and the fourth toward a bowl appearance (if you count the other non-conference games as wins).
at MISSISSIPPI STATE | Oct. 30
Kentucky heads to Starkville for a game that could shake up the bowl invitations among the mid-tier SEC teams. Dan Mullen's success at making the Western Division Bulldogs competitive last year makes Mississippi State a possible (maybe even likely) bowl team this season, so the annual East-West rivalry between these two teams will take on added significance. (Yes, Kentucky and Mississippi State are rivals, according to the SEC. No, I don't know why.)
VANDERBILT | Nov. 13
This should be a win for the Wildcats. That hasn't always helped in recent years (see: 2008), but a bowl game could already be in the balance when the Commodores visit Lexington. After all, if Kentucky is 5-5 at the start of this game, the only one left on the calendar is -- Tennessee.
9.11.10 | WESTERN KENTUCKY This one is really a prerequisite for continuing membership in the SEC.
9.18.10 | AKRON I promised not to make any jokes about Kentucky's schedule this year. So we'll move on.
10.2.10 | at OLE MISS The Wildcats haven't faced the Rebels in the Houston Nutt Era. The last time Kentucky faced a Houston Nutt team, Big Blue defeated Arkansas 42-29. The last time the Cats lost to Nutt, it was 71-63. In seven overtimes.
10.9.10 | AUBURN Kentucky defeated Gene Chizik's Tigers in his first season at the helm; can the Wildcats prevent Chizik from returning the favor in Joker Phillips' inaugural year?
10.23.10 | GEORGIA The Dawgs will be looking for revenge after what might have been the Wildcats' biggest upset of 2009.
11.6.10 | CHARLESTON SOUTHERN Again: Do you want to remain in the SEC?