A 4-0 start and upset victories over Florida and Mississippi State have translated to plenty of national attention for the Kentucky Wildcats.
ESPN and CBS Sports both moved UK from unranked to top 20 in their college football power rankings Sunday morning, shortly after the Cats dominated 14th-ranked Mississippi State, 28-7, to get off to a 2-0 start in Southeastern Conference play for the first time since 1977. Sports Illustrated’s Andy Staples moved UK all the way up to No. 10 nationally after the upset victory.
The Cats also moved to No. 17 in both the Associated Press poll and the coaches’ poll.
“Something you probably wouldn’t have heard in July: The Wildcats host No. 2 Georgia on Nov. 3 in a game that might go a long way in deciding the SEC East title,” wrote ESPN’s Mark Schlabach, who ranks UK at No. 19 nationally.
More victories mean higher postseason expectations, obviously, and the Cats could be on track for a doozy of a bowl game down the road.
New bowl projections also started to trickle in Sunday, and 247Sports, the Orlando Sentinel and SB Nation are all projecting a New Year’s Day bowl appearance for the Wildcats. All three of those outlets have Kentucky playing in the Citrus Bowl in Orlando on Jan. 1.
247Sports pits the Cats against Michigan, and the Orlando Sentinel and SB Nation have UK playing Wisconsin.
“I’m as surprised as you are to see Kentucky way up there in one of the SEC’s best bowls, but I had them at 8-4 even before they stomped out a quality Mississippi State,” wrote SB Nation’s Jason Kirk. “If it’s between a fired-up UK that’s just beaten Louisville and a couple really good SEC West teams without pretty records (LSU and A&M, probably), I’d guess the Citrus stays within its time zone.”
The Sporting News updated its bowl projections Monday morning, and it also has Kentucky playing in a New Year’s Day game against Wisconsin in the Outback Bowl in Tampa, Fla.
Both of ESPN’s postseason prognosticators — Kyle Bonagura and Mitch Sherman — have Auburn in the Citrus Bowl, though Sherman still projects that Kentucky will play in a New Year’s Day game, against Michigan in the Outback Bowl.
Bonagura is predicting that UK will play against Boston College in the Music City Bowl in Nashville on Dec. 28.
New projections from USA Today, veteran college football journalist Brett McMurphy of WatchStadium.com, and Pete Fiutak of CollegeFootballNews.com all placed UK in the Outback Bowl against Michigan State on Jan. 1.
CBS Sports’ Jerry Palm still has UK playing against Kansas State in the Liberty Bowl in Memphis on New Year’s Eve.
Sports Illustrated places UK against Duke in the Belk Bowl in Charlotte on Dec. 29 (which is the same day as the UK-Louisville basketball game).