Kentucky continues AP Poll rise; jumps one spot to No. 7


Isabel McSwain

Kentucky Wildcats quarterback Will Levis (7) throws the ball while warming up during the No. 8 Kentucky vs. Northern Illinois football game on Saturday, Sept. 24, 2022, at Kroger Field in Lexington, Kentucky. Kentucky won 31-23. Photo by Isabel McSwain | Staff

Cole Parke, Sports Editor

Kentucky football continued its steady rise through the AP Poll rankings on Sunday, moving up one spot to No. 7 following its 31-23 win over Northern Illinois on Saturday.

The placement at No. 7 marks the highest achieved by Kentucky since 1977, which it held for six weeks under the leadership of Fran Curci, who held the record of longest tenured UK football coach before current head coach Mark Stoops.

Since 1977, UK had gotten no higher than No. 8, which was accomplished twice in 2007 under Rich Brooks.

UK currently stands at 4-0 on the young 2022 season heading into the bulk of its SEC schedule, picking up wins over Miami Ohio, Florida, Youngstown State and Northern Illinois.

The talk about rankings started early for this Kentucky team, earning the No. 21 ranking in the preseason AP Poll, marking the first time since 1978, the year after the aforementioned 97 campaign under Curci.

The Cats stayed at No. 21 following a less than convincing win over Miami Ohio in week one but catapulted into the top 10 at No. 9 after traveling to Gainesville, Florida and defeating then No. 12 Florida 26-16, marking the first time since 1976 that the Wildcats had defeated the Gators in back-to-back matchups.

The next week, after conquering Youngstown State 31-0, the first shutout of Stoops’ tenure, Kentucky moved up one spot to No. 8, jumping Oklahoma State.

This week, despite the Cats’ defensive woes against Northern Illinois, former No. 6 Oklahoma was defeated at home by then unranked Kansas State, a mistake that the Sooners were punished for by dropping 12 spots down to No. 18.

Signs pointed to a possibility that then No. 11 Tennessee may hop Kentucky and take the No. 7 instead, but the Vols allowed Florida to get back within a last-second touchdown of victory, leading to UT jumping just three spots to No. 8 and Kentucky moving up to No. 7.

Only six teams stand in front of Kentucky heading into its week five matchup including No. 6 USC, No. 5 Clemson, No. 4 Michigan, No. 3 Ohio State, No. 2 Alabama and No. 1 Georgia, who Kentucky will face off against later this season.

Now traveling to Oxford, Mississippi to duel No. 14 Ole Miss, Kentucky may have the chance to move up further in the rankings, especially considering two teams above them may be on upset alert.

No. 5 Clemson hosts No. 10 NC State in a game that it is favored in by less than a touchdown after the Tigers took two overtimes to get over then No. 21 Wake Forest.

Alternatively, although less likely, No. 2 Alabama travels to Fayetteville to battle No. 20 Arkansas, having previously struggled to beat unranked Texas by only one point. The Razorbacks had been within the top 10 a week ago before losing on the road to No. 23 Texas A&M, who itself was a top ten team before being stunned by Appalachian State.

Regardless, the prospect of continuing to rise through the rankings is a very real one for this Kentucky squad as it hits the road for a game considered by many to be top three in terms of importance this season for the Cats as they seek their first win in Oxford since 1978.

That game is currently slated to kickoff at noon EST inside Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on Saturday, Oct. 1, and will air live on ESPN.