Kentucky had the blessing of an easy September, only having to play one SEC team and three non-power five schools. With the turn of the calendar, the Wildcats have a dramatic shift in difficulty, starting with their October 1st meeting with No. 14 Ole Miss in Oxford. Now that we have a better idea of where these teams are, let's rank the games for the month.
#4: vs South Carolina
In my preseason rankings, I grossly overrated Shane Beamer's Gamecocks, like many have done in the past. South Carolina has played two extremely difficult conference games at Arkansas and versus Georgia, but they have underwhelmed in their nonconference games, as well. Spencer Rattler continues to turn the ball over at an alarming rate, which may have some to do with their lackluster offensive line. On the defensive end, the Gamecocks are giving up 46 points per game in their two conference games. Moral of the story? Mark Stoops should continue his dominance over South Carolina on October 8th.
#3: vs Mississippi State
If you ask ESPN FPI, Kentucky has a less than 50% chance of winning this game. Fortunately, ESPN FPI also has Texas and LSU in its top 10, proving its lack of relevance. The Wildcats and Bulldogs have traded blows in this series dating back to 2015. Since then, the home team has won every game in the series. Mike Leach is in his third season in Starkville, which is typically when his teams start to flourish. The Bulldogs put up a disappointing performance against LSU in Death Valley, but don't let that you underestimate this team. Will Rogers picked apart Brad White's defense last year, en route to a 31-17 win over No. 12 Kentucky. The score was not a good indication of the dominant performance Mississippi State unleashed that evening. Kentucky will surely be looking for revenge on October 15th. If it wasn't for the fact that this game is in Lexington, I'd probably have number three and number two flipped on this list.
#2: at Ole Miss
Who would have thought that a Lane Kiffin led team would have the league's most prolific running attack? That's what happens when you replace a generational quarterback like Matt Corall with Jaxson Dart, while bringing in a former five-star recruit in Zach Evans. The TCU transfer isn't even the team's top rusher. Freshman running back Quinshon Jenkins holds that title with 429 yards on the season. Evans is close behind with 365 yards on the year. Take everything you've seen from the Rebels with a grain of salt, considering their opponents are a combined 6-10 on the season and they've yet to play a conference game. Vaught-Hemingway Stadium is sold out and a stripe out with be in full effect for what should be a rowdy crowd despite a 11 AM CT kickoff time. Both teams will find out a lot about theirselves in this one.
#1: at Tennessee
Even though every Kentuckian hates to admit it, the Volunteers could be 0-4 right now and we'd still be reluctant to chalk up this game as a win. Tennessee has had Kentucky's number over the year despite the Wildcats having a better program overall. Josh Heupel has changed the climate in Knoxville in less than two years and has Tennessee back in the top 10. Big time matchups between LSU and Alabama loom for the Vols, which will tell us a lot about them, but they already hold two impressive wins over Pittsburgh and Florida. September Heisman, Hendon Hooker, has been on a tear since taking over for Joe Milton III last season and has been in total control of what many consider the best passing attack in the country. Mix all of this in with a packed Neyland Stadium and you get what is undoubtedly Kentucky's toughest test in the month of October.
Kentucky has accomplished many things in the Mark Stoops era. The seventh ranked Cats have their highest AP ranking since the '70s, and if they can run the table in October, playoff talks become serious in Lexington.