A More Normal Schedule In 2021
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Southeastern Conference decided on a ten game all-league schedule last year. As a result, Kentucky lost out on their three “guaranteed wins” against mid-majors. In addition, the rivalry game against Louisville also went out the window. On Wednesday in a “made for TV event” the league announced the 2021 slate. For the Cats, it’s a return to normal. Let’s dive in as we begin breaking down Kentucky’s 2021 schedule.
Before we get into a game by game look here’s an overview of the season.
— Southeastern Conference (@SEC) January 27, 2021
An Easy Win
Mark Stoops’ Cats kick off the season on September 4th with a visit from Louisiana-Monroe. A season ago Matt Viator’s Warhawks finished 0-10 and 0-7 in the Sun Belt. The two schools have met five times in history with Kentucky holding a 4-1 margin. UK has won four straight since ULM upset the Cats 20-14 back in 1994. In their last meeting, the Cats rolled to a 48-14 win in 2014.
Two Big Swing Games
Following what should be an easy opener the Cats dive into the conference schedule when they host Missouri. Eli Drinkwitz’s Tigers were one of the surprises of the league in 2020 finishing 5-5. They also broke a five-game losing streak to Kentucky winning 20-10. Missouri’s getting a lot of love from the prognosticators as a sleeper team in 2021. In order for the Cats to have a big year, they need this one.
The Cats step out of the conference for their next contest when they host Tennessee-Chattanooga. Following that match up they head to Columbia for a game at South Carolina. The Gamecocks have a new coach in Shane Beamer, who was the associate head coach at Oklahoma. An interesting side note on this game is Stoops plucked his new offensive line coach Eric Wolford from USC. Beat Missouri and Carolina they’re sitting 4-0 for only the third time since 2007.
As we continue breaking down Kentucky’s 2021 schedule let’s look at the toughest part of the year.
Rough Three Game Stretch
If the Big Blue Nation thought playing Alabama and Florida in back to back weeks was bad last year, it’s cranked up a notch in 2021. It kicks off with the Florida Gators visiting Lexington on October 2nd. The Cats look for their first home win against Florida since 1986. The perception is Dan Mullen’s club may be down from last season so the chance for a win is there. The next week Coach O and the LSU Tigers invade Kroger Field. The last time LSU came to Lexington was 2007. That day UK knocked off the Number 1 ranked Tigers 43-37 in triple overtime. Last Word On College Football voted that win as the greatest in school history.
A third of the trifecta of top SEC teams comes on October 16th when the Cats play at Georgia. Once again in 2021, Kirby Smart’s Bulldogs are the team to beat in the SEC East. Kentucky last defeated Georgia in 2009 and most of those games haven’t been close. Win one of these three and you’re looking at a great season. Take two of three and the Cats are likely headed to a major bowl game.
Coming Down The Stretch
Following an off week on October 23rd the Cats head to Starkville for a battle with Mississippi State. A season ago Kentucky held a Mike Leach coached team without an offensive point for the first time ever in a 24-2 thumping. Up next the Cats battle the Volunteer state as they host Tennessee and travel to Vanderbilt. The Vols have a new coach in Josh Heupel but are in some serious trouble with the NCAA. As a result, they’ve had a slew of players hit the transfer portal and look to be down this season.
The Commodores also have a new head coach in former Notre Dame defensive coordinator Clark Lea. Even on the road in Nashville the BBN will probably have more fans than the home-standing school and should sweep the state.
That wraps up the SEC portion of the schedule for the Wildcats. However, as we continue breaking down Kentucky’s 2021 schedule there are still two games left.
On November 20th the Cats host New Mexico State. Doug Martin’s Aggies were one of a handful of teams who canceled last season due to the pandemic. However, they have three games scheduled for the spring starting on February 20th. The two schools have met once in history with UK winning a 62-42 shootout in 2016. It’s a homecoming for Martin as he played quarterback for the Cats from 1981-1984.
After a year off the season wraps up with the “Battle For The Governor’s Cup” with Louisville. Kentucky’s won three of the last four in the series after the Cardinals won the previous five. Kentucky’s outscored the Cardinals 101-23 in the last two games and should win again fairly easily.
With five of the first six games at home and seven overall, the season sets up well for Kentucky. They have a good chance of beating Florida and Tennessee in the same season for the first time since 1977. As mentioned earlier the games against Missouri and South Carolina are keys. Win both of those and the Cats have an outside shot at starting 6-0. A nine-win season is definitely a possibility, which would set up for a big bowl game in January.
Thanks for breaking down Kentucky’s 2021 schedule with us here at Last Word On College Football. What are your initial predictions on the 2021 schedule? Leave a comment in the section below. The February recruiting season is upon us and we’ll have the latest on any players that sign plus those coming through the transfer portal.