Sidelines with John Clay

Is Kentucky football’s 2018 schedule tougher than 2017?

Heading into the 2018 college football season, strength of schedule is always a hot topic for debate.

So after Kentucky went 7-6 last season with a trip to the Music City Bowl in 2017, the consensus appears to be that the Cats’ 2018 schedule is tougher than it was a year ago.

Is that true?

Here’s a basic look at the two schedules, based purely on won-lost records:

First, here is Kentucky football’s 2017 schedule, with opponents’ records from 2016.

DateTeamWL
9/2/17@Southern Miss76
9/9/17Eastern Kentucky38
9/16/17@South Carolina67
9/23/17Florida94
9/30/17Eastern Michigan76
10/7/17Missouri47
10/21/17@Mississippi St67
10/28/17Tennessee94
11/4/17Ole Miss57
11/11/17@Vanderbilt67
11/18/17@Georgia85
11/25/17Louisville94


Totals7972

One thing to note, Georgia turned out to be far tougher in 2017 than in 2016. Tennessee was not as good in 2017 as the Vols had been in 2016. In fact, UT’s dip earned head coach Butch Jones a pink slip.

Now here is UK’s 2018 schedule, with opponents’ records for 2017:

DateTeamWL
9/1/18Central Michigan85
9/8/18@Florida47
9/15/18Murray St38
9/22/18Mississippi St94
9/29/18South Carolina94
10/6/18@Texas A&M76
10/20/18Vanderbilt57
10/27/18@Missouri76
11/3/18Georgia132
11/10/18@Tennessee48
11/17/18Middle Tennessee76
11/24/18@Louisville85


Totals8468

Based on the charts, yes, Kentucky’s schedule in 2018 will be tougher. The winning percentage for 2017 opponents, based on 2016 record, was 52.3. The winning percentage for 2018 opponents, based on 2017 record, is 55.3.

If you go by how the opponents finished in 2017, UK’s 2017 foes ended up 81-69 on the season for a winning percentage of 54.0. So if the 2018 opponents play to their 2017 level, Kentucky’s 2018 schedule is still tougher than 2017.

Going into last season, UK was facing three teams with nine or more wins from the year before. (That’s how it turned out, as well.) This year, the Cats are facing three teams with nine or more wins the year before. One difference, no 2017 foe had won more than nine games in 2016. For 2018, Kentucky faces a Georgia team that won 13 games last season.

Or you might want to let Phil Steele be the last word on this subject. In his 2018 College Football Preview, Steele said UK faced the nation’s 57th toughest schedule in 2017. For 2018, Steele has Kentucky’s schedule ranked as the 39th most difficult.

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