There might be a few teams in college football with weaker non-conference slates for 2009 than the Big Blue but not MUCH weaker. Miami of Ohio (2-10), Louisville (5-7) and Louisiana-Monroe (4-8) combined to go 11-25 last fall. The fourth non-conference foe is Eastern Kentucky of the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Div. 1-AA).
Three of the four non-conference games will be played at Commonwealth Stadium in Lexington. The Miami game will be played just across the Ohio River in Cincinnati.
Kentucky's SEC schedule, of course, is considerably tougher. In addition to its five Eastern Division rivals and annual Western Division foe Mississippi State, the Cats face Alabama and Auburn from the West this season. Bama, coming off a 12-2 season in '08, visits Lexington Oct. 3. Auburn, looking to bounce back from a 5-7 disappointment last fall, hosts UK Oct. 17.
Making Kentucky's conference schedule even more challenging is the fact that three teams the Wildcats would have a good chance to beat at home – South Carolina, Auburn and Vanderbilt – must be played on the road.
Making matters worse is the fact UK is likely to be an underdog in its first four SEC games – vs. Florida (13-1 last fall), vs. Alabama (12-2 last fall), at South Carolina and at Auburn. It's entirely possible UK will be 0-4 in league play when Mississippi State visits Lexington on Oct. 31.
Another disadvantage in Kentucky's schedule is this: The Cats' open date is scheduled between Game 1 vs. Miami and Game 2 vs. Louisville. That means Rich Brooks' team must play the last 11 consecutive weekends of the regular season without a break. For a squad short on depth, that could lead to a serious November fade.
Bottom line: Kentucky is virtually assured of a 4-0 non-conference record, so the Cats need only to go 2-6 in SEC play to qualify for their fourth consecutive bowl bid. That's not a lock but it's certainly an attainable goal.