Kentucky Football: Unbeaten Wildcats crack the top 25 in the coaches poll

Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports
Kentucky's Chris Rodriguez Jr. (Credit Jeff Blake-USA TODAY Sports /

It’s about time the Kentucky football team garnered a little respect. For the first time in three years, the Wildcats are ranked No. 23 in the AFCA Coaches Poll.

Kentucky (4-0, 2-0) is unbeaten in four games this season after going into Columbia, South Carolina, and escaping with a 16-10 hard-fought win in their first time out on the road this year.

The Wildcats will never be judged on how big they win since UK seldom blows out an opponent normally playing up or down to that team’s ability. Will it be on style points, doubtful because thus far it has been anything but pretty.

Kentucky football earns its ranking on hard work and defense, not style points

What this team does it on are grit and determination.

They sat just outside the rankings last week at No. 27 just behind Liberty among teams also receiving votes.

In the Associated Press poll this week Kentucky sits at No. 31.

The Big Blue was last in the rankings at No. 20 last season in the preseason Coaches Poll and 23rd in the preseason AP Poll but fell after dropping the season opener to Auburn.

During the 2018 season, UK finished No. 11 in the Coaches Poll and No. 12 in the AP, which was its first final ranking in the AP Poll since way back in 1984.

Kentucky has earned some respect back but to gain even more it all comes down to how they play in the next three weeks against Southeastern Conference Big Boys Florida, LSU, and Georgia.

It was announced the Florida game will kick off at 6 pm EST on Saturday on ESPN. Prime Time for the Wildcats to muzzle some Gator who come to Lexington ranked No. 9 in the coaches poll and No. 4 in the AP Poll. The game will also be a Blue/White game so check what side of the stadium you are on for your color to wear.

There are a total of 8 SEC teams ranked in each poll this week showcasing how dominant this league is. With Clemson free falling there are about to be no ACC teams ranked.

With Florida and LSU both coming to Lexington the next two weeks there is a “chance” the Wildcats could be 6-0 when they head to Athens to face the No. 2 ranked Georgia Bulldogs on Oct. 16.

It is up to them if they choose to stay atop the SEC standings.

DeAndre Square was asked after the game what the Cats have to do in these next few weeks.

"“We have to worry about ourselves. We got to prove to each other as a team that we can go out there and compete… take [every game] one by one.”"

But to succeed the Wildcats can’t solely rely on their defense as they did on Saturday. The offense has to come to play, protect the ball and not fumble it away three times and throw interceptions. The Gamecocks failed to turn any of those into points, but that won’t be the case with the three upcoming opponents.

Somehow the Wildcats rank dead last in the FBS in turnover margin at minus-9 and have yet to drop a game.

Chris Rodriguez has been running hard and now ranks No. 11 in all-time rushing yards at the UK but the ball continues to come out of his hands.

Quarterback Will Levis is the third quarterback since 1993 to win his first four starts along with  Terry Wilson (2018) and Mike Hartline (2008). But he has a tendency to fire off balls that should be thrown away instead of forced into coverage.

You can’t do that in this gauntlet of games and hope to skate by. You can’t keep trotting the defense back on the field due to offensive blunders or risk them being gassed. Levis knows that and addressed it after the game.

"“We are 4-0 and we probably have the most turnovers in the country. We need to work on it. If and when we get it fixed, we are going to start playing a lot better ball games.”"

The ball is in your hands Kentucky football. Protect it, seize the opportunity and more and more respect will come our way.

Succeed and you will become just the fifth Kentucky to start the season 5-0 in school history: 1950, 1984, 2007, and 2018.

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