The hypothetical situation has been thrown out there for a long time: how would Louisville football perform against Kentucky’s SEC schedule? Many have often wondered the same thing of the Wildcats taking on what is perceived as the Cards’ incredibly weak schedule. Nick Evans looked at how the Cards would stack up in the SEC (8-4) and now I take a look at UK taking on UofL’s American Athletic Conference slate. Here we go:
Sunday, September 1 – Ohio
The Bobcats will be a tough test for the Wildcats. An experienced head coach (with Nebraska, went to the 2001 National Title game) and a solid quarterback (Tyler Tettleton is a senior QB drawing some national attention) will make for a tough game for the Cats. Tettleton, a redshirt senior in 2013, completed 62.1% of his passes in 2012 (2844 yards) with 18 touchdowns compared to just four interceptions. The experience at QB will make things tough on a UK defense that will have to depend on making Tettleton uncomfortable when he drops back to throw. The Bobcats finished 9-4 last season, capped by a blowout win over Louisiana-Monroe in the Independence Bowl, and are picked by most as a top 40 team in 2013. Ohio does have only 12 starters returning (7 offense and 5 defense), but I would expect a close win for the Bobcats as UK is not to the top 40 level yet.
Ohio 31, Kentucky 24 (0-1)
Saturday, September 7 – Eastern Kentucky
A rivalry to be sure as the distance between the campuses can be measured in minutes. The Colonels won eight games a season ago, but those came at the FCS level. Eastern Kentucky will not cause the UK the same fits as rival WKU did in 2012. Big Blue wins this one in a route.
Kentucky 42, Eastern Kentucky 10 (1-1)
Saturday, September 14 – Louisville
Obviously the Cats can’t play themselves and, while I do believe Mark Stoops is building the UK program the right way in year one, I don’t think the program is in a position to beat the Cards this season. Charlie Strong’s team will have to stay humble throughout the season to avoid upsets, but a game against the archrival in enemy territory should be enough to prevent a Cardinal let down. Cards win, but UK looks much more respectable than last season.
Louisville 31, Kentucky 17 (1-2)
Saturday, September 21 – Florida International
A bounce back week for the Cats after the loss to rival Louisville. The Golden Panthers of FIU are in their first season in the new-look Conference USA, but they make their C-USA debut as the second least experienced team in the league. A tumultuous offseason for FIU was highlighted by the firing of head coach Mario Cristobal and by not landing Butch Jones to replace him. The cupboard does not seem terribly full for new coach Ron Turner and Kentucky shouldn’t have too much of a problem, especially at home.
Kentucky 45, Florida International 7 (2-2)
Saturday, October 5 – at Temple
Mark Stoops’ squad steps out of Commonwealth Stadium and hits the road for the first time with Stoops at the helm. But, the Cats should be able to ease into life on the road in the American Athletic Conference as the Owls do return 14 starters, but they’re from a 4-7 team in 2012. Former head coach Steve Addazio bolted for Boston College and Matt Rhule takes over after serving as an offensive line coach for the New York Giants last season. But, Al Golden is certainly not walking through that door and the Owls can’t handle the new-look Wildcats.
Kentucky 31, Temple 13 (3-2)
Thursday, October 10 – Rutgers
Big Blue comes back home, but is in unfamiliar territory as there are not a whole lot of Thursday games on UK’s SEC docket. The Scarlet Knights finished 9-4 last season, but return just ten starters only four on defense) for head coach Kyle Flood’s second season. Flood proved he could coach last season, replacing the Tampa Bay Buccaneer-bound Greg Schiano. The Knights return starting quarterback Gary Nova, but lose the school-record seven players they had selected in this year’s NFL Draft. This could be a fairly even matchup, a coin flip game as the cliché goes. I give the edge to Rutgers, which has years of Thursday night experience. The Cats keep it close, but fall at home in the mid-week affair.
Rutgers 27, Kentucky 24 (3-3)
Friday, October 18 – Central Florida
Yet another game on an odd night for the Wildcats and yet another game against a team with a “knight” as a mascot. These Knights will likely be a much tougher foe than their Rutgers counterparts from the previous week. Many have predicted Central Florida to finish second (behind Louisville) in the AAC this season. Head coach George O’Leary is in his tenth season with the program and his squad managed a 10-4 record last season (with a loss to Tulsa in the C-USA title game and a win over Ball State in the Beef O’Brady ‘s Bowl). Kentucky is still striving to be a bowl team and the Knights could be competing for the AAC’s BCS bid. The Cats drop another one in what has been a very home-friendly schedule.
Central Florida 35, Kentucky 17 (3-4)
Saturday, October 26 – at South Florida
Finally, the Wildcats get back to their Saturday comfort zone. Head coach Willie Taggart is in his first season in Tampa and he certainly knows what it takes to beat UK. Taggart had the Cats on the ropes in Nashville two seasons ago and pulled the upset at Commonwealth in overtime as head coach of Western Kentucky. Taggart takes over a team that won just three games a season ago, but he may recruit the state of Florida better than just about anyone in the nation. Taggart should be comfortable at USF has shown the ability to turn a program around (took WKU from no wins to seven in just two seasons). The Bulls take the win at home as people start to take notice of Coach T’s bus.
South Florida 21, Kentucky 17 (3-5)
Friday, November 8 – at Connecticut
It is yet another weeknight game (albeit a Friday) for Kentucky, but UK has had a couple chances to adjust over the course of the year. It has been seemingly the same story in Storrs over the past few seasons: a wildly inconsistent team. Head coach Paul Pasqualoni does return eight offensive starters (only five defensive) from a five-win team in 2012. However, those starters are back from an offense that managed just 318 total yards per game last season. UK uses knowledge gained from its previous two weeknight contests to get the road win over the Huskies.
Kentucky 20, Connecticut 10 (4-5)
Saturday, November 16 – Houston
Stoops’ Troops return home and bowl eligibility hangs in the balance with three games left in the regular season. Houston comes to town with a team that went 4-4 in Conference USA games last season (5-7 overall). The Cougars return 15 starters in total, ten on the offensive side. That Cougar offense has become’s the program’s calling card as it averaged 480 yards per game last season and has averaged at least 446 total yards over the last seven seasons. However, the Wildcats have been coming together more and more each week under Stoops and are ready to pull the upset at home. Houston may look passed the Cats just a bit as a huge tilt with AAC power Cincinnati looms the following week. I’m not sure the goal posts are coming down, put Cats fans will be able to celebrate the upset.
Kentucky 28, Houston 20 (5-5)
Saturday, November 23 – Memphis
The Tigers come to town with Kentucky playing for bowl eligibility. There’s not much to say about this one. Memphis won just four games last year and has not been to a bowl since 2008. Those wins in 2012 came against Rice, Tulane, UAB and Southern Mississippi; not exactly a list of perennial college football powers. The Tigers may finally be above laughable on the field, but this matchup would be much more attractive on the basketball court. Kentucky’s biggest challenge will be not overlooking the Tigers, but a bowl appearance being on the line should take lack of focus off the table. UK takes the “John Calipari” Bowl in convincing fashion.
Kentucky 41, Memphis 10 (6-5)
Thursday, December 5 – at Cincinnati
Big Blue heads up I-75 to close out the season. Mark Stoops has built recruiting success at Kentucky by nabbing players in the state of Ohio. Unfortunately for the Cats, most of those players won’t be on campus for a season or two. Cincinnati, under first-year head coach Tommy Tuberville, returns 13 starters off a 10-3 team a season ago. The Bearcats may be playing for a BCS win and another double-digit win season. UK walks into a madhouse at Nippert Stadium on a cold Thursday night and cannot get the job done on UC’s senior night.
Cincinnati 28, Kentucky 7 (6-6)
A .500 record and bowl eligibility would be nothing to sneeze at in Mark Stoops’ first season. The USF and Rutgers games are both 50/50 for me and could go either way. I also think Houston would be favored by nearly a touchdown, so that game could go either way as well. In the end, I think 6-6 is a pretty fair record for UK going against Louisville’s schedule. I’m pretty sure Cats fans would not scoff at the notion of getting back to a bowl game. We’ll never know for sure, but we can spend hours and hours discussing. Let the debating begin.