Playing football in the Southeastern Conference leaves little room for error. Just ask Kentucky head coach Joker Phillips. Then again, if you’re the Kentucky Wildcats, playing non-conference foes hasn’t been much easier this season. Kentucky’s strength of schedule is now fifth nationally according to the Sagarin Computer Ratings in USA Today. Kentucky’s six opponents have a combined record of 29-2.
Kentucky hosted its third consecutive undefeated, ranked opponent on Saturday. The latest more than formidable foe, Mississippi State, remained undefeated with a 27-14 victory over the Wildcats. Kentucky has faced four ranked opponents in its first six games. The Wildcats are 1-5 overall and 0-3 in the SEC heading into this weekend’s game on the road against the Arkansas Razorbacks (2-4 overall, 1-2 in the SEC).
Here’s a closer look at Kentucky’s first six opponents, three of whom are still undefeated.
Louisville Cardinals (5-0 overall, 0-0 in the Big East): The Cardinals still have a shot at an undefeated season, which was set as a goal for 2012 during the preseason. Louisville is headed into a Big East Conference opener against the Pittsburgh Panthers. Louisville is 5-0 for the first time since the 2006 season.
Kent State Golden Flashes (4-1 overall, 3-0 in the MAC): MAC championship contender Kent State hasn’t lost since leaving Lexington on Sept. 8. Following an open date, Kent State has notched three straight wins. The Golden Flashes have non-conference away games remaining with the Army Black Knights and Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
Western Kentucky Hilltoppers (4-1 overall, 1-0 in the Sun Belt): In-state rival Western Kentucky’s only loss to date came to the Alabama Crimson Tide. The Hilltoppers’ overtime win over Kentucky started a three-game winning streak. Western Kentucky will enjoy an open date this week before resuming play in the Sun Belt Conference on the road at Troy.
Florida Gators (5-0 overall, 3-0 in the SEC): Undefeated Florida is fresh off a hard-fought 14-6 win over the LSU Tigers. The Florida defense dominated LSU. Offensively, the Gators used big plays to upend the conference rival. Finishing strong, Florida has battled back from behind to beat LSU, Texas A&M and Tennessee this season.
South Carolina Gamecocks (6-0 overall, 4-0 in the SEC): At 6-0 overall and 4-0 in the Southeastern Conference, South Carolina is ranked the highest that is has been since 1984. The Gamecocks rolled on Saturday, defeating Georgia 35-7 for their school-record 10th straight win. Head coach Steve Spurrier’s South Carolina football team has now won three straight over the Bulldogs.
Mississippi State Bulldogs (5-0 overall, 2-0 in the SEC): Following Saturday’s win over Kentucky, Mississippi State is off to its first 5-0 start since 1999. Head coach Dan Mullen guided Mississippi State to a conference win over the Auburn Tigers earlier in the season. The Bulldogs are preparing to host Tennessee this week.