The 2023 Kentucky football schedule is one that we have seldom seen in the past. There are elements unlike what Stoops is used to in Lexington.
For instance, the Wildcats will play four games against Power Five opponents in November, which means no cupcake Saturday before the Louisville game. Where does Kentucky's pay-to-play opponents fall? All three will be played consecutively to start the season in September. This gives Mark Stoops and his staff the ability to ease into the 2023 campaign, but a gauntlet ensues after that. Is this a good thing or a bad thing for the Wildcats? Lets break it down.
College football being back on the TV is enough to get Big Blue Nation excited, but that thrill is somewhat tamed by Kentucky's lackluster September slate. The Wildcats open the year with three games at home against Ball State, Eastern Kentucky, and Akron. They then finish the month in Nashville for a road match-up against Vanderbilt. Stranger things have happened, but Kentucky should be 4-0 heading into October. The benefits of an easy September are that the coaching staff can get an in-depth evaluation of the roster against different teams without much risk of losing. With so much time to tinker with play-calling, lineups, and technicalities, the Wildcats should head into conference play with a clear identity. The flip side to this is the lack of competition before being bombarded with a full SEC slate. When Florida travels to Lexington in early October, Kentucky will likely play in their first test that'll likely be decided in the fourth quarter. Meanwhile, the Gators will already be battle tested against Utah and Tennessee. It's also worth noting that any major potential early season injuries will come in games that Kentucky will be heavily favored in.
October and November brings nothing easy as it will be an even split of games on the road and at home. Seven of these games will be SEC competition, with the lone non-conference game coming at Louisville. The main concern here? INJURIES. That level of competition with just one week off is the perfect storm for some breaks and bruises. The conditioning coaches will certainly have their work cut out for them. From an optimistic point of view, this gauntlet eliminates the possibility of a "trap game" and will allow the coaching staff to get the players locked in game in and game out. As we all know, there has been a tendency for Stoops' teams to lack focus at the midway point of the year. There should be no issue with that in 2023.
Personally, I am not a huge fan of how this schedule lays out for the Wildcats. The lack of balance could be a factor in Kentucky performing worse than they may have otherwise. One can only hope that there's enough stamina on this roster to make it through.