Hope knows this might not be the ideal year to start the season with Kentucky because of the Wildcats returning talent. He has taken teams to Cincinnati, North Carolina State, Central Michigan, Vanderbilt and Bowling Green in recent years, but he knows Kentucky has both talent and experience this year.
"They are a great football team and they have a lot of great players coming back that are NFL-caliber players. They won eight games (last year) and crushed an SEC team in a bowl game. They are really a great football team and certainly one of the best teams we have seen since I have been here. We faced a really talented North Carolina State team a year ago that had a bunch of first-round picks and Kentucky certainly is right up there with those guys talent-wise, and further ahead as far as playing on the field. They play well together," said Hope.
Forgive hope for confusing UK's opponent in the Music City Bowl — Clemson — with a SEC team because the Tigers were big, physical and fast. But they also were dominated by Kentucky. Still, Hope has no regrets about starting the season against UK.
"I like opening up with them because they are non-conference. I like getting the non-conference over with. I like where they are at in the schedule," Hope said. "Some I-AA teams have had to schedule I-A teams in the middle of the season, and we would Kentucky as well because it is so special that we would play them at any point they want to. But to open up with them is really good for us scheduling-wise, and I think good for football in the whole state."