Key stretch: Kentucky


Key stretch: Auburn (Oct. 9), South Carolina (Oct. 16), Georgia (Oct. 23).

Analysis: Kentucky’s nonconference schedule is one of the easiest in the league, which makes those three straight home games against conference foes in October all the more critical. The Wildcats won at both Auburn and Georgia last season. It was their first win at Auburn in nearly half a century and their first win at Georgia in 32 years, so you know both of those teams will be seeing blue when they come to Commonwealth Stadium. Kentucky has struggled mightily against South Carolina, losing 10 straight to the Gamecocks. Finally breaking through against Steve Spurrier and the Gamecocks could be the difference in finishing with a .500 or better record in the SEC and finishing below .500 in the league for the 10th time in the last 11 years.

Prediction: Even with all three games at home, a 3-0 record is probably too much to ask. A 2-1 record would lock in a fifth straight bowl appearance, while a 1-2 record would make it an uphill climb. Going winless would likely keep the Wildcats home for the postseason. Protecting their home turf is a theme you’ll hear often out of the Wildcats this season. They lost close games at home to Mississippi State and Tennessee late in the season a year ago that cost them a more attractive bowl game.