After a couple of years in decline under Joker Phillips, Kentucky begins the Mark Stoops era in 2013. The new head coach has created some buzz in Lexington with a solid recruiting class and a big turnout to the spring game in April. But life in the SEC isn't easy, and the Wildcats' schedule may prove to be too tough for a big splash in Stoops' first season.
2013 Kentucky schedule
Projections from Football Outsiders' 2013 college football almanac.
Kentucky opens the year with two games against non-BCS teams, and if the Wildcats want to best last season's 2-10 record, a 2-0 start is an absolute must. After that manageable start to the year, UK plays four straight games against teams that won at least 11 games in 2012, including three teams that played in BCS bowls. Things are liable to get ugly.
The road gets a little easier the final week of October and first few weeks of November, but that doesn't mean it's a cakewalk. The 'Cats should be able to get a victory against Alabama State, but it would take an upset to find a win against either Mississippi State or Vanderbilt on the road or Missouri at Commonwealth Stadium. The penultimate game of the year at Georgia will likely be a lopsided loss, and while Tennessee is also rebuilding, the Volunteers should be favored in the season finale.
Stoops has given the Wildcats some positive momentum in his first months on the job, but he's trying to dig Kentucky out of an awfully big hole. Results should improve in the future, but Year 1 will almost assuredly be rough.