Mark Stoops’ Kentucky football team has the respect of the media as well as coaches.
One week after being slotted at No. 21 in the preseason USA Today coaches poll, the Wildcats were ranked No. 20 in the preseason Associated Press Top 25 released Monday. The ranking marks just the fifth time in program history UK has been included in the preseason AP poll.
Kentucky was the fifth SEC team included in the preseason poll, behind No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Georgia, No. 6 Texas A&M and No. 19 Arkansas. Ole Miss, who Kentucky plays in Oxford on Oct. 1, was the other SEC team in the poll at No. 21.
Kentucky was also ranked in the preseason AP poll in 1950, 1951, 1957 and 1978. Two years ago, UK was not ranked in either the preseason AP or coaches polls but did debut in both polls’ first in-season update before actually playing a game.
Stoops’ squad finished the 2021 season at No. 18 in the final AP poll after defeating Iowa in the Citrus Bowl to secure the program’s second 10-win season in four years. As evidenced by media picking the Wildcats to finish second in the SEC East, behind only Georgia, preseason hype has been growing for Kentucky throughout the summer thanks in large part to a group of returning veterans led by quarterback Will Levis, a possible first-round pick in the 2023 NFL Draft.
“I can’t not see it, but we know it’s not going to affect how we’re preparing and how we work,” Levis said of the growing hype earlier this summer. “Whether we’re projected to be last or first, we’re going to keep the same mindset. I think keeping that underdog mentality helps us a little bit. This is a culture that’s been established since even before I got here. Just to be a part of it and be able to add pieces to it is a lot of fun.”