LEXINGTON, Ky. — Kentucky’s 2017 schedule was released Tuesday night, and, like every other schedule in the conference, it isn’t easy.
The Wildcats are off to an 0-2 start after dropping games to Southern Miss and Florida, two teams they’ll face early next season. Here’s how we broke down UK’s 2017 slate.
Toughest game: at Georgia
Florida, Tennessee and Ole Miss all travel to Lexington. These might be the three toughest teams UK will face all season, and while none figure to be wins, they all come in the friendly confines of Commonwealth Stadium. The Wildcats toughest test will come in their second to last game of the season, a Nov. 18 matchup at Georgia.
It’ll be year two of coach Kirby Smart’s tenure in Athens, Ga., and highly touted freshman QB Jacob Eason will be at the end of his sophomore season. The Bulldogs know how to run the ball and any game “Between the Hedges” is a tall task for the opponent. The home SEC matchups are tough enough. This one is all but impossible.
Easiest game: Eastern Michigan
FCS Eastern Kentucky is on the schedule, but a Sept. 30 matchup with MAC opponent Eastern Michigan is an easier test. Missouri beat the Eagles by 40 points last Saturday and Eastern Michigan hasn’t won more than two games in a season since 2011.
Meanwhile, the Colonels of Eastern Kentucky are first up on UK’s home schedule and coach Mark Stoops and company will surely have 2015 on their mind. The Wildcats needed overtime to beat EKU a season ago and will hope for a smoother win in 2017.
Toughest stretch: Oct. 28-Nov. 25
Tennessee, Ole Miss, at Vanderbilt, at Georgia, Louisville. It might be cheating to count five games as a “stretch,” but UK will likely be the underdog in each of these contests with a road trip to Vanderbilt as the only one in question. This stretch leaves out a date at Mississippi State the week before the Tennessee game.
The second half of the schedule is brutal but UK does have three of these five games at home. If Stoops’ squad gets a win at Vanderbilt, you’d have to think winning one of the other four would be a victory for the Wildcats.
Easiest stretch: Sept. 24-Oct. 14
The beginning of the 2016 slate was supposed to be manageable for the Wildcats but a season opening loss to Southern Miss changed all of that. Nothing will be easy for Kentucky in 2017 but the team gets a three-week stretch toward the middle of the season to regroup after a challenging start and to prepare for an even tougher finish.
UK will need to capitalize on a stretch from Sept. 24 (the day after the Florida game) to Oct. 16 (the Monday when Mississippi State preparation starts). The three Saturdays in that stretch are home against Eastern Michigan, home against Missouri and then an off date. Kentucky could pick up two wins and then have an extra week to prepare for a trip to Starkville, Miss. and the second half of the season.