Kentucky jumps to No. 9 in week three AP Poll


Jack Weaver

Kentucky Wildcats defensive back Keidron Smith (1) celebrates on the sideline after returning an interception for a touchdown during the No. 20 Kentucky vs. No. 12 Florida football game on Saturday, Sept. 10, 2022, on Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. UK won 26-16. Photo by Jack Weaver | Kentucky Kernel

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky football found itself ranked No. 9 in the week three AP Poll on Sunday, jumping 11 spots from its previous spot at No. 20.

The jump came just over 12 hours after the Wildcats defeated formerly No. 12 Florida in Gainesville, marking the first time since 1976 that Kentucky has recorded back-to-back wins over the Gators.

As for Florida, the Gators fell to No. 18, four spots behind Utah, the team UF defeated in week one to propel itself into the top 15 from an unranked position.

The No. 9 ranking is the highest achieved by Kentucky since 2007 when it was ranked No. 8 twice after beating No. 9 Louisville and No. 1 LSU, and the highest of head coach Mark Stoops’ tenure in Lexington.

Kentucky had been No. 20 prior, a ranking it earned in the preseason, marking the first time since 1978 that the Wildcats had seen their name in a preseason poll.

Though UK triumphed in its season opener against Miami Ohio 37-13, an unconvincing first half led to the Cats staying put in the week two poll.

The Cats had a similarly disappointing first half against Florida but went on to shut out the Gators in the second half, scoring 13 unanswered points to secure UK’s second victory in “The Swamp” in five years and its third win over Florida since the Gators put together a 31-game win streak over the Cats.

While Kentucky will be happy to secure its first ranked win of the young season it will have plenty of opportunities to add some more looking ahead to UK’s SEC opponents.

While its next two games against FCS Youngstown State and Northern Illinois have next to no chance of being ranked games, the Wildcats then travel to Oxford to duel current No. 20 Ole Miss.

With the Rebels playing Georgia Tech and Tulsa in the next two weeks, it can only be expected that Ole Miss gains rankings heading into its home game against Kentucky, with the game potentially even being a top 15 matchup.

After Oxford, Kentucky hosts South Carolina and Mississippi State, the latter of which already received 43 AP votes in the most recent poll.

With the Gamecocks expected to lose to No. 1 Georgia next week it’s unlikely USC will have a number next to its name by game six, but Mississippi State very well could if it survives its matchups with current No. 24 Texas A&M and No. 10 Arkansas before coming to Lexington.

Following the home stand, Kentucky travels to Knoxville to challenge current No. 15 Tennessee, who jumped nine spots after defeating formerly No. 17 Pittsburgh in week two.

Next playing Missouri and Vanderbilt, Kentucky is likely to have a break from ranked opponents for those weeks, but it’s a break that is needed with the Cats hosting current No. 1 Georgia in game 11.

Georgia saw itself seated No. 2 going into week two but after taking care of business against FCS Samford the Bulldogs moved to No. 1 after former No. 1 Alabama was forced to put together a game winning drive over then unranked Texas.

While there is still plenty of football left to be played before that point, the possibility of a top five matchup between Georgia and Kentucky in Lexington is currently a very real possibility.

In the meantime, Kentucky has to take care of business against Youngstown State on Saturday with the Wildcats currently favored 97.7-percent by ESPN matchup predictor.

Kentucky and Youngstown State will kick off at noon on Saturday, Sept. 17, inside Kroger Field in Lexington.