Mark Stoops and his Kentucky football troops just seem to keep pulling firsts out of their bag of tricks as wins clearly breed success. This time the Wildcats are ranked for the first time ever in the USA Today AFCA Coaches Preseason Poll coming in at No. 21.
The poll made its debut in 1992 and since then all but two Southeastern Conference schools had appeared in the preseason rankings – Kentucky and Vanderbilt. The Commodores likely will now remain as the lone team for quite some time.
In the inaugural poll in 1992 Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Tennessee, and Texas A&M were ranked to start the season. Mississippi State followed the next season and then Auburn in 1995, LSU in 1996, and Arkansas in 1999. Ole Miss joined the SEC schools to crack the ranks in 2000, South Carolina the following year, and Missouri in 2004.
Now it’s Kentucky football’s turn to etch their name along with their SEC brethren.
While Stoops will tell you preseason accolades are fine he prefers to hold celebrations till after the final game is in the books.
When the SEC Media Days wrapped up in July, members of the media selected UK to finish second behind Georgia in the SEC East.
During that meeting, he shrugged off that nice accolade saying he “prefers to have people talk about you at the end of the year, rather than the beginning of the year.”
True enough, but this ranking solidifies that the body of work he has done over the past 10 seasons has finally come to fruition.
Kentucky fans think the Wildcats are poised to take down Georgia at the SEC East’s top dog and play for an SEC Championship. Georgia came at No. 3 in the poll.
Lofty goals but after last season when they finished alone in second place and the return of quarterback Will Levis to lead them once again it’s not a pipe dream. When Georiga comes to Lexington on November 19 for the SEC finale it could be for all the SEC marbles and bragging rites.
Stoops touched on that also at SEC Media days about how the program was at the bottom of the SEC when he took over.
“When we started 14 and start working our way up and last year fortunate to finish second in the east but we all know there is a big gap between Georgia and No. 2 and we are all trying to close that.”
The Wildcats finished 15th in the final 2021-22 coaches poll and finished11th in the final 2018-19 poll.
The only other ranked opponent on Kentucky’s schedule is 24th-ranked Ole Miss while five other schools that received votes will line up against the Cats including Tennessee (163 votes), Mississippi State (19), Florida (17), South Carolina (5), and Louisville (1).
The SEC West is well represented as well with No. 1 Alabama leading the poll, Texas A&M coming in at No. 7, and Arkansas at No. 23. Also receiving votes were Tennessee, LSU, Auburn, Mississippi State, Florida, South Carolina
That leaves Missouri and Vanderbilt as the two lone teams without any votes.
No. 1 Alabama
No. 2 Ohio State
No. 3 Georgia
No. 4 Clemson
No. 5 Notre Dame
No. 6 Michigan
No. 7 Texas A&M
No. 8 Utah
No. 9 Oklahoma
No. 10 Baylor
No. 11 Oklahoma State
No. 12 Oregon
No. 13 NC State
No. 14 Michigan State
No. 15 Southern California
No. 16 Pittsburgh
No. 17 Miami
No. 18 Texas
No. 19 Wake Forest
No. 20 Wisconsin
No. 22 Cincinnati
No. 23 Arkansas
No. 24 Ole Miss
No. 25 Houston