Thursday night, the SEC Network revealed the 2016 SEC football schedule for all 14 of its teams. In case you missed it, here is Kentucky’s full schedule.
Now that the Wildcats know exactly who they’ll be facing next year, and when, let’s dive into a further analysis of what the future has in store.
Best matchup — Louisville (Nov. 26)
The in-state rivals will meet in the 2016 regular season finale at Louisville as part of a series extended through 2019. Every SEC team is required to square off with a Power 5 opponent outside of the conference in 2016, and there’s no better matchup for Kentucky than Louisville. Typically known for their basketball programs, both schools’ football teams are on the rise. By pairing the two teams together for the season finale for the second straight year, tensions will be high and potential bowl game implications will make for an exciting matchup.
Toughest matchup — Alabama (Oct. 1)
No surprises here. Alabama is expected to be a national powerhouse again next year and Kentucky will have to face the Crimson Tide on the road. Kentucky hasn’t faced Alabama since 2013, when Alabama cruised to a 48-7 victory at Commonwealth Stadium.
Toughest stretch of the schedule — Sept. 10 – Oct. 1
From Sept. 10 to Oct. 1, the Wildcats must travel to Florida, play at home against New Mexico State, host South Carolina and hit the road to Alabama. Those two road games (Florida and Alabama) easily could be the Wildcats’ toughest matchups of the entire year. The environments are hostile and both of those teams are dominant. Based on the current state of the New Mexico State and South Carolina programs, it’s very likely that Kentucky could win both games. But the fact that they are sandwiched in between the Florida and Alabama matchups could put more pressure on the Wildcats to view them as must-win games.
Biggest trap game — New Mexico State (Sept. 17)
There is no denying New Mexico State’s program has struggled immensely this year. To date, the Aggies are winless with an 0-7 record. But two of those losses have come at the hands of Florida and Ole Miss, and one was just by two points to Georgia State. It’s crucial that the Wildcats don’t overlook New Mexico State at Commonwealth Stadium. They’ll be coming off of their matchup against Florida and could be thinking about the next week’s game against South Carolina. A win over New Mexico State would give the Wildcats an early, expected victory as they push toward bowl eligibility. A loss could shake their confidence and deprive them of a highly winnable outcome.