BOZICH | Consensus Top 25 status shows the respect Stoops and British football have earned | Sports

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) — In 2018, the University of Kentucky football team earned its 10th and final victory of the season by sending Penn State to the Citrus Bowl. It was a Kentucky team that beat a Florida ranked team on the road as well as a Mississippi State ranked team in Lexington. The Wildcats won their first five games, managed Louisville 56-10, and finished the season ranked 12th.

Big deal.

The Associated Press 2019 Preseason Top 25 voters shrugged their shoulders.

Syracuse, Washington State and Nebraska were all ranked in the Top 25 in this preseason poll. UAB and Fresno State got votes.

Kentucky did not. The Wildcats were in Vanderbilt territory. Even after a 10-3 season, the Wildcats failed to get a single vote from any of the 62 voters.

This is news you should remember today. Confirmation has arrived of the next step coach Mark Stoops and his team have taken to bring credibility to Kentucky football. After another 10-3 season, the Wildcats earned consensus Top 25 status.

It arrived with the news that Kentucky is ranked No. 20 in the 2022 AP preseason poll, making the Wildcats the fifth-highest-ranked team in the Southeastern Conference.

It is not a coincidence. I checked the numbers from seven computer surveys and rankings. You can find Kentucky in the Top 25 in six out of seven rankings.

Here are the numbers, starting with the best:

  • No. 11: Focus on professional football
  • No. 18: ESPN Football Power Index
  • #20: AP Media Poll
  • #21: USA Today Coaches Survey
  • #21: Athlon Sports College Football Magazine
  • #24: Lindy’s College Football Preseason Magazine
  • No. 35: Phil Steele College Football Preseason Magazine

Average ranking in these seven polls: No. 21.

It’s quite a journey for a program that got zero votes in the AP preseason poll in 2021, 20 votes in 2020, none in 2019 and one vote in 2018.

And you wonder why Stoops and his players roar in defense of the program every time someone says something insensitive about Kentucky football?

A breakdown of ballots from writers and viewers across the country, compiled on collegepolltracker.com, shows Kentucky has garnered support from coast to coast.

Only 10 of 63 voters did not vote for Kentucky, while 24 voters had the Wildcats ranked above No. 20.

That group included Rece Davis, ESPN’s host for its popular College GameDay program, which voted Kentucky No. 18, ahead of Michigan State, Arkansas and Cincinnati.

Mike Barber of the Times-Dispatch of Richmond, Virginia gave the Wildcats the most love, ranking Kentucky No. 10, ahead of Oregon, Utah and Wisconsin.

Kentucky also earned a No. 12 vote from Bryce Miller of the Union-Tribune of San Diego (California); a No. 13 vote from Sam McKewon of the Omaha (Nebraska) World-Herald and a 15th place vote from Andy Greder of the St. Paul (Minnesota) Pioneer-Press.

Virginia, California, Nebraska and Minnesota?

This doesn’t read like home cooking from the Southeastern Conference. It reads like recognition of the work Stoops and company have done to transform Kentucky’s reputation from hopeless to a program to watch.

The highest votes Kentucky received from SEC city writers came from Nick Kelly of the Tuscaloosa (Alabama) News and Tom Murphy of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette in Little Rock. Both voted the UK No 16.

And so on. It is simply a poll and not even the poll that counts. That, of course, would be the college football playoff poll, which doesn’t appear until October. Connect then.

This whole poll only erases Kentucky’s opportunity to play the No Respect card — unless the conversation turns to the opinion of basketball coaches.

After managing an improved team from Miami, Ohio in its home opener on Sept. 3, the Wildcats will have to face Florida in Gainesville on Sept. 10 to retain their position. You know, there are people in the SEC East who are eager to put Florida and Tennessee back in the position of being the main threats to Georgia.

If being snubbed last season didn’t guarantee a losing season for the Wildcats, crushing those preseason polls doesn’t guarantee a winning season for a Kentucky team with several important players to replace.

But it’s certainly a change from three, four or five years ago. It’s a sign that serious football watchers across the country respect the work Stoops and his team have put into Kentucky football.

Like it should be.

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