Kentucky Football: Wildcats scaling the ladder of respect picked to finish 3rd in East

University of Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal
University of Kentucky defensive lineman Josh Paschal /

The Kentucky football program got the recognition it has been seeking to scale the ladder of contenders in the Southeastern Conference.

As the SEC Football Media Days drew to a close the voting of the early season pecking order by media members solidified what Big Blue Nation has been saying…. take note the Wildcats are to be reckoned with.  Well at least in the SEC East.

Kentucky was a solid choice to finish behind Georgia and Florida, but well ahead of fourth-place Missouri, Tennessee, South Carolina, and perennial cellar-dweller Vanderbilt.

There was no surprise in the SEC West with Alabama, as usual, the clear run front-runner with Texas A&M getting enough love to be picked second and LSU third.

Kentucky football now much back up the preseason hype of third

Two media members even gave Kentucky a first-place vote each and even one crowned the Wildcats to be the conference champion.


First-place votes in (  )


Georgia (124) 923
Florida (7) 784
Kentucky (2) 624
Missouri 555
Tennessee 362
South Carolina (1) 355
Vanderbilt 149


Alabama (130) 932
Texas A&M (1) 760
LSU (1) 633
Ole Miss (1) 529
Auburn 440
Arkansas (1) 241
Mississippi State 217


Alabama (84)
Georgia (45)
Ole Miss (1)
Texas A&M (1)
Florida (1)
Kentucky (1)
South Carolina (1)

Coach Mark Stoops undoubtedly loves that but is realistic at the same time. You have to make your way up the mountain to various achievement checkpoints before finding the pinnacle of success in reaching its peak.

Senior defensive end Josh Pascal was asked what Kentucky has to do to compete in the SEC East for the title.

"“To say the least we just have to execute. We put in the work this off-season, and we are going to continue to.  During camp we are going to continue to preach our goal, and that is to get to Atlanta, and we’re going to compete.”"

He and Darrin Kinnard represented the Kentucky program at the event in Hoover, Alabama along with Stoops.

Kentucky now has the depth to compete with the big dogs in the conference, put themselves in a position to beat anyone, and no longer roll over for anyone. The Wildcats play with chips on their shoulders knowing they belong in the same discussions as Georgia, Florida in the East and then set their sites next on the west.

The 2021 season is the year Kentucky must flex its muscles and showcase what Stoops has been building and assembling over the past nine seasons. They are bigger, stronger, faster and are putting players into the NFL thus high school players are taking notes and visits.

Kentucky has Missouri in week two this year and South Carolina in week four and winning these and a pair of out-of-conference games against Louisianna Monroe and Chattanooga would set the stage for week five when the Gators come to Kroger Field.

The Wildcats have only beaten Florida once since 1986 in 2017, and trail 53-18 in the series but Big Blue Nation wants nothing more as well as the players to muzzle the Gator chomp.

LSU rolls into Lexington the following week as the rotating team from the West just the fourth meeting since 2000 and this includes the triple-overtime thrilling win for Kentucky in 2007.

Then it’s off to Athens the following week to face the top Dawg in Georgia. How banged up physically and psychologically at this point will determine just how this game and the back half of the season playout for the Cats.

Georgia leads the series 60-12 and the Wildcats haven’t put up much of a fight against them winning just twice since 1997.

Kentucky can and should win the final five regular-season games after that. Something Paschal knows his team is capable of doing.

"“That’s the thing that we have to do. We have the players, we have the talent, and now we just have to execute our goals and execute what we have to do.”"

Will the Liam Coen offense be putting up points behind the Big Blue Wall and can the defense continue its stronghold against opponents? That’s what we all want to know.

But to be sitting in July just 43 days from opening kickoff discussing what could be is a breath of fresh air.

With that being said I expect the new offensive scheme should allow Kentucky to take a step up the ladder this season. Many feel they finish 8-4 overall and 4-4 in the SEC East and finish as the preseason pollsters predict a likely third-place finish.

Next. Keaton Upshaw suffers significant injury. dark