“Wildcats on the verge of top ten”.
In normal circumstances the prospect of a Kentucky team outside of the top ten ranking would be unthinkable. A state of emergency declared in Kentucky.
Sports fans in Lexington, Kentucky are well used to being top ranked. In fact that is an understatement. The University of Kentucky Men’s basketball team is the most successful NCAA Division I team of all time. So it’s understandable that the college football team takes a backseat often, well always.
The Kentucky Wildcat’s Football team’s season has got off to a flying start. The Wildcats are 5-0.
Yesterday, they slipped almost unnoticed into the top 15 in the AP rankings (#13) following their win over South Carolina. A win over Texas A&M on Saturday could see the Wildcats in the top ten for the first time since 2011.
So how good is this Wildcats team? Are they contenders or are they pretenders? Well how they have fared so far tells us lots.
They have beaten Florida, Mississippi State and South Carolina. Each SEC rivals. Of those three games, two were on the road, to the Gamecocks in Columbia and the nightmare of playing the Bulldogs in Stark-Vegas. Cowbells an’ all. Florida under Dan Mullen is improving each game, so meeting the Gators in Lexington early in the schedule has worked out well for the Wildcats. But taking three SEC scalps in five games, that gets you noticed.
The name on everyone’s lips is running back, Benny Snell. Snell a three star recruit (yes three, don’t you love him already?), is the hot running back in the SEC right now. Eight touchdowns and 639 rushing yards has got Benny being talked about in Heisman circles already.
But the Wildcats ain’t no one trick Benny. Oh no m’aam. On the D-line, DE/Linebacker Josh Allen (no, not THAT Josh Allen), also leads the SEC but in sacks (6) and tackles for loss (10.5). Allen came to Lexington from New Jersey, as a two star recruit. The rags to riches story is getting better.
At QB, Head Coach Mark Stoops had a big decision to make. He went with JUCO transfer, Terry Wilson and his faith in Wilson has paid off. Wilson is better on the ground than in the air, rushing for 300 yards, scoring twice and sacked only five times – Wilson is leading from the front.
Add to that a secondary line that returned as seniors and the SEC’s leading rushing front line, this is fast becoming a fairytale story in waiting.
But this is the SEC, where a pantomime villain lurks around every corner just waiting to spoil the feel-good story.
After Texas A&M (in Lexington), the Wildcats visit Nashville to take on Vanderbilt who everyone thought was a contender but in fact are not. Then it’s Mizzou at home before travelling to Athens to take on the mighty Georgia Bulldawgs. If the Wildcats are unbeaten before getting on the bus to Athens, few if any would bet on them coming back in the same fine form.
But it’s a great story. The football team hasn’t been ranked top five in over fifty years. I’m being unkind by calling them a bunch of misfits, although five star recruits they ain’t. But this is why they have caught the attention of a nation. And more importantly they play great football.
Watch this space. There may be more to come.
The UK is rooting for UK. Go Wildcats!
photo credit : Go big blue country