UK Football

John Clay: Kentucky faces brutal schedule in 2013

This is ridiculous.

Come on now, we knew Kentucky football was facing a brutal schedule for 2013, Mark Stoops' first season as head coach. Welcome aboard. Bring your flak jacket. It's the SEC, after all.

Then the first Associated Press college football poll dropped Saturday morning and it was, like, wow, holy cow.

Alabama is No. 1, of course.

The defending national champs play at Commonwealth Stadium on Oct. 12.

Georgia is No. 5 and earned one first-place vote.

The Cats must travel to Athens to play the Dawgs on Nov. 23.

South Carolina is No. 6.

Stoops' Troops visit Steve Spurrier in Columbia on Oct. 5.

Louisville is No. 9.

Teddy Bridgewater and the defending Sugar Bowl champs visit Lexington on Sept. 14.

Florida is No. 10.

Will Muschamp brings his Gators — not to mention a wide receivers coach named Joker Phillips — to Alumni Drive on Sept. 28.

Mother, make it stop.

That's not just five ranked Kentucky football opponents; those are five Kentucky football opponents in the top 10.

Tennessee also plays five in the top 10 (1. Alabama, 3, Oregon, 5. Georgia, 6. South Carolina, 10. Florida.)

"Like I've said before," Stoops said Saturday after putting his team through a two-hour scrimmage, "that's five great opportunities."

It's also a long walk across a bed of nails for a team that went 2-10 last year and a program that has won two conference games in the last two seasons.

And for all the good vibrations that have come from the Stoops hire, there's no getting around that this is a, as the coach put it, a "brick-by-brick" renovation.

Just this past week, Stoops admitted his team, well, to put it gently, faces some personnel issues.

"We are not good enough at certain positions to win a lot of football games right now," said the coach.

That was before Friday morning when the Cats went out and "wasted" the first session of a two-a-day day. You don't have to be Bill Belichick to know that this team, under a new coaching staff, can't afford to waste a single drill, much less an entire practice.

Stoops seemed a bit happier after Saturday's scrimmage, but it would be a stretch to say he was elated.

And offensive coordinator Neal Brown wasn't doing a happy dance, either. Too many drops. Too many interceptions. After a good start to the scrimmage, the offense couldn't sustain.

"I didn't think offensively overall we performed well," Brown said.

Man oh man, the powerhouses filling the Kentucky schedule are expected to perform very well.

Consider that Vanderbilt, a team that ended last year with seven straight victories, including a 40-0 win over the Cats, didn't crack the Top 25. UK plays the Commodores in Nashville on Nov. 16.

Consider that Mississippi State, which UK visits for a Thursday night game on Oct. 24, has been to three straight bowl games and Dan Mullen is 4-0 as a head coach against Kentucky.

Who are we leaving out? Western Kentucky (Aug. 31) has Bobby Petrino. Miami of Ohio (Sept. 7) is picked in the middle of the MAC. Gary Pinkel is on the hot seat at Missouri (Nov. 9) and Butch Jones has rallied the Vols for his first season at Tennessee (Nov. 30).

Thank goodness for Alabama State (Nov. 2). What's that. You say ASU has former standout Georgia running back Isaiah Crowell? Figures.

Both Stoops and Brown said Saturday they were surprised the Cats didn't bring more energy to the scrimmage.

"You can make an excuse and say, 'OK, we're two weeks into camp.'" Brown said. "Nobody cares. Everybody else that's playing college football is at the same point that we are."

Maybe, but only 10 football teams made the top 10 of the AP's pre-season college football poll. And Kentucky plays half of them.

2013 Kentucky schedule

(Home games in capital letters)

Aug. 31 x-Western Ky., 7

Sept. 7 MIAMI (OH), Noon

Sept. 14 LOUISVILLE, Noon


Oct. 5 at South Carolina, TBA


Oct. 24 at Mississippi St., TBA



Nov. 16 At Vanderbilt, BA

Nov. 23 At Georgia, TBA


x-At Nashville

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