No rest for weary Cats this football season

11 straight football games a big concern

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistJune 4, 2009 

  • 2009 schedule

    All times TBA

    Date Team

    Sept. 5 x-Miami (Ohio)

    Sept. 19 LOUISVILLE

    Sept. 26 FLORIDA

    Oct. 3 ALABAMA

    Oct. 10 at South Carolina

    Oct. 17 at Auburn




    Nov. 14 at Vanderbilt

    Nov. 21 at Georgia

    Nov. 28Tennessee

    x-At Cincinnati's Paul Brown Stadium

It's not Jeremy Jarmon's departure, or Derrick Locke's knee, or Mike Hartline's arm, or even John Calipari's reputation that worries Kentucky football fans this summer.

OK, so they are worried about those things.

But they are really worried about this thing: The open date.

Or the lack of an open date.

Fretting football fanatics are bothered by the fact that somehow, after an open date Sept. 12, Rich Brooks' Cats will play 11 consecutive games, with eight of those coming in the brutal Southeastern Conference.

Talk about grounds for a lawsuit.

Times have changed. Back in 2003, Rich Brooks' club played no more than five games in a row. In 2005, the Cats played no more than six games without a break.

But since the NCAA went permanently to a 12-game season — a bad move, by the way — the schedule has been squeezed.

In '07, UK played a stretch of nine straight games. Last year, after a Sept. 20 open date, the Cats played eight straight before a Nov. 22 off week leading to the season finale at Tennessee.

This year, the Cats open with Miami (Ohio) in Cincinnati on Sept. 5. On Sept. 12, they watch everyone else play. Then on Sept. 19, they start an 11-game grind.

How does that compare to the rest of the SEC?

Arkansas is in Kentucky's boat. The Razorbacks have an open date in week two, then 11 straight games.

Mississippi is also following the UK datebook. Houston Nutt's team opens at Memphis, takes a week off, then plays 11 straight.

Meanwhile, Auburn did new coach Gene Chizik no favors. The Tigers play 11 straight before finally enjoying an open date the Saturday before the Iron Bowl.

South Carolina must contest 11 consecutive before Steve Spurrier has two weeks to prepare for the season finale against visiting and hated Clemson on Nov. 28.

But at Florida, the defending national champs possess the league's best open date. Just after the Gators play at Kentucky on Sept. 26, they get Oct. 3 off before travelling to Louisiana State.

Despite his penchant for risky fourth-down conversion attempts, LSU Coach Les Miles is a smart scheduler. The Tigers' open date is in the schedule's middle, Oct. 17, between home games with Florida (Oct. 10) and Auburn (Oct. 24).

Alabama smartly wedged an off week between home games with Tennessee (Oct. 24) and LSU (Nov. 7).

And speaking of Alabama, new Tennessee coach Lane Kiffin will have two weeks to fill Bama's bulletin boards before invading Tuscaloosa on Oct. 24. (Not so smart.)

Georgia is returning to a winning formula, taking a week off Oct. 24 before the annual Jacksonville game with archrival Florida on Oct. 31. Last time Georgia had two weeks to prepare for the Gators was 2007. Result: Dogs 42, Gators 30.

And when Mississippi State's first-year coach, Dan Mullen, brings his Bulldogs to Lexington, it will be State's ninth straight game. An off week the following Saturday is followed by a Starkville visit from Alabama.

Then there's Vanderbilt. The Commodores don't need no stinking off weeks. Bobby Johnson's club plays 12 straight weeks. No open dates.

And you'd think the 'Dores might need a Saturday off to study.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or Read his blog at

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